US sanctions against the ICC betrayal of victims of war crimes everywhere

3 Sep, 2020 | Press Releases

Brussels, 3 September 2020

NPWJ continues to reject shameful attacks against the International Criminal Court as the US names Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Head of the OTP’s JCCD Phakiso Mochochoko for sanctions. We stand with them and urge ICC States Parties to condemn and reject this latest travesty against justice.

The announcement of sanctions against Fatou Bensouda, ICC Prosecutor, and Phakiso Mochochoko, Head of the OTP’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division (JCCD), by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday is yet another outrageous step in the ongoing assault by the United States on justice, accountability and the rule of law.

No Peace Without Justice continues to reject both the Executive Order signed in June and the sanctions imposed pursuant to that Executive Order, which also included restrictions on visas for unnamed ICC staff involved in “efforts to investigate US personnel”. These sanctions are antithetical to the United States’ otherwise long-standing commitment to justice for the most serious crimes of concern to humanity as a whole. With yesterday’s actions, the United States also puts in jeopardy the right of victims of those crimes globally to have recourse to the ICC when no other option is open to them.

The ICC Prosecutor and her staff have been investigating crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan, which the ICC Appeals Chamber agreed were of sufficient gravity to allow the Prosecutor to proceed with those investigations. The crimes under investigation do potentially involve United States personnel, but they also involve Afghan Government forces, as well as the Taliban. The easiest way for the United States 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 they have. This is in any case an obligation on all States under the laws of armed conflict that apply whether or not a State has joined the Rome ICC Statute: the US should live up to that obligation instead of sanctioning committed international civil servants for doing their jobs.

The sanctions issued yesterday appear designed to halt the ICC’s investigations into the crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan and to impede the work of the whole Court, whose governing body is supposed to be meeting in New York this coming December at United Nations Headquarters. We continue to believe that these and prior actions by US officials constitute an offence against the administration of justice under article 70 of the Rome ICC 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”.

States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court must raise their voices in support of the Court and in support of the victims on whose behalf the Court works. States Parties should use all diplomatic means necessary to encourage the United States to revoke this appalling order and scale back their attacks. We encourage all States Parties and others, including civil society, to work together to find concrete solutions to ensure these sanctions do not have an adverse impact on those individuals mentioned yesterday, named and unnamed, as well as other sanctions that now appear increasingly likely to be imposed in the future.

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