NPWJ welcomes the reversal of sanctions against ICC officials by the Biden administration

3 Apr, 2021 | Press Releases

Brussels-Rome, 3 April 2021

No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) welcomes the decision of the US government to revoke the executive order imposing sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) officials. These unprecedented measures, endorsed by the former US administration, represented shameful attacks against an institution whose mandate is to deliver justice and redress for victims of the worst crimes of concern to humanity as a whole.

In June 2020, the former US President Donald Trump adopted an order authorising sanctions such as visa restrictions and freezing of assets against ICC personnel and those cooperating with them, which appeared to be designed in retaliation to then-potential authorisation of an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan by US and Afghan forces, as well as alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Taliban. This outrageous step was furthered in September 2020 when the then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions against Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor, and Phakiso Mochochoko, Head of the OTP’s Jurisdiction, Complementary, and Cooperation Division (JCCD).

On both occasions, NPWJ firmly condemned these actions, noting they could also constitute offences against the administration of justice under article 70 of the Rome Statute, that can and should be investigated and prosecuted before the ICC, in particular “retaliating against an official of the Court on account of duties performed by that or another official”, and “impeding [and] intimidating … an official of the Court for the purpose of forcing … the official not to perform, or to perform improperly, his or her duties”.

The revocation of these measures by the Biden administration seems to be a positive step towards a renewed US commitment to justice, the rule of law and multilateralism. We look forward to the United States engaging constructively with the ICC in the fight against impunity, including to address their concerns with respect to ICC’s actions. We hope that additional steps can be taken to address the harms already suffered due to the imposition of these sanctions, including the effect they have had on civil society working on justice and the documentation of war crimes in various places, whose work was affected negatively due to the Executive Order and the sanctions imposed pursuant to it.

With regards to the Afghanistan situation, the easiest way to avoid scrutiny by the ICC is for the United States itself to investigate whether their own personnel have engaged in these crimes and prosecute them if it appears they have. This is an obligation on all States under the laws of armed conflict that apply whether or not a State has joined the Rome Statute. The US should live up to that obligation.

For further information, contact Alison Smith, International Justice Director, on or Nicola Giovannini, Press & Public Affairs Coordinator, on