US Imposes Visa Ban For International Criminal Court Staff

March 15, 2019 by Dan McCue

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the United States will revoke or deny visas to International Criminal Court officials who attempt to investigate or prosecute alleged abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo said during a news conference at the State Department Friday morning.

He said the visa restrictions will apply to any member of the International Criminal Court staff who attempts to further such an investigation.

Pompeo said any wrongdoing committed by American personnel would be dealt with in U.S. military and criminal courts.

He also warned that the visa restrictions ” may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent.”

In November 2017, International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the body’s pre-trial chamber for permission to look into possible war crimes in Afghanistan that may involve Americans.

Six months later, the Palestinian government submitted a request to the court calling for an investigation into what it described as Israeli crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.

During his remarks, Pompeo addressed the court’s staff directly, advising them that if they are in any way connected with one of these proposed ICC investigations, they should not assume they still have or will get a visa “or will be permitted to enter the United States.”

The United States has never been a member of the International Criminal Court.

President Bill Clinton signed the so-called Rome Statute that created the ICC in May 2000 but never submitted the agreement for ratification by the Senate, where concerns over the scope of the court’s jurisdiction led to bipartisan opposition.

The signing of the statute itself did not create a binding legal obligation for the United States, but it did oblige it to refrain from acts that would counter or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.

In 2001, President George W. Bush took the first steps to immunize U.S. service members from prosecution by the international body, signing the American Service Members Protection Act.

Shortly afterward, John Bolton, then a State Department official and today, President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, informed the United Nations the Bush administration was rejecting the Rome Statute.

Bolton resumed his attacks on the ICC during  a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, in Washington in September.

“The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court,” Bolton said, adding later, “If the court comes after us, Israel, or other US allies we will not sit quietly,” he said, also threatening to impose the same sanctions on any country that aided the investigation.

“We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead,” he added.

The ICC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In an interview with Reuters, Human Rights Watch director Andrea Prasow said the Trump administration is engaging in “a thuggish attempt to penalize investigators.”

“Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked,” she said, and called on U.S. lawmakers to rescind the move and express support for the court.

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