US Prepares to Bar Entry of International Criminal Court Investigators

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The United States will impose visa restrictions on people responsible for any International Criminal Court probe, a move aimed at preventing actions against US and allies in Afghanistan, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday.

Following up on a threat made last September by hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton, Pompeo said Friday that the U.S. has already begun moving against a handful of employees at the ICC.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was prepared to take further steps, including economic sanctions, if the war crimes court goes ahead with any probes of U.S. or allied personnel.

Pompeo did not mention potential criminal prosecution of ICC members in his comments.

"I'm announcing a policy of United States visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of USA personnel", Pompeo told a news conference in Washington.

The secretary of state also warned that "these visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursed allied personnel including Israelis without allies' consent".

The court, which sits in The Hague, responded that it was an independent and impartial institution and would continue to do its work "undeterred" by Washington's actions.

ICC prosecutors in November 2017 sought authorization from judges to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan since May 1, 2003.

He appeared to be referring in particular to requests for investigations with regards to US military actions in Afghanistan.

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"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. "After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us".

The United States is among a dozen countries, including China and Russian Federation, that have not ratified the Rome Treaty that created the ICC. In 2002, Bolton, then a State Department official, traveled to NY to ceremonially "unsign" the Rome Statute at the United Nations.

The head of State said he hopes to convince the ICC to change course in Afghanistan from taking action inconsistent with US views. Pompeo said Friday that more measures may come. Afghanistan is a signatory.

"This is an unprecedented attempt to skirt global accountability for well-documented war crimes that haunt our clients to this day", Dakwar said.

"But that's not how law works, " he said on Twitter.

Supporters of the court slammed Pompeo's announcement.

Human Rights Watch called the announcement a "thuggish attempt to penalize investigators" at the court and that it sends "a message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked".

The move, Pompeo confirmed to reporters Friday morning, is a direct response to ongoing efforts by the ICC to probe allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity tied to the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan.

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