Lawyers urge Trump to rescind sanctions and travel bans for International Criminal Court
01 Jul 2020

A group of 175 legal scholars and lawyers specializing in international law have urged President Trump to rescind his authorization of sanctions and visa denials for International Criminal Court staff members investigating war crimes in Afghanistan, including those allegedly committed by U.S. forces.

In a statement sent to the White House on Friday and released Monday, the lawyers said that placing sanctions on prosecutors and investigators of alleged war crimes, rather than perpetrators, is “wrong in principle, contrary to American values, and prejudicial to U.S. national security.”

“Seeking to intimidate investigators and punish prosecutors perverts the purpose and undermines the legitimacy of sanctions,” they wrote.

The statement, which comes amid news that Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill coalition troops in Afghanistan, was signed by former ambassadors, assistant secretaries of state for human rights, prosecutors and judges at war crimes tribunals held in other countries.

Among the signatories is Ben Ferencz, the last surviving U.S. prosecutor of Nazis at Nuremberg. Now 100, Ferencz was the lead prosecutor in the Einsatzgruppen case, which involved roving killing squads during World War II.

Although successive U.S. administrations have considered the ICC an attack on U.S. sovereignty, the dispute over the court has come to a head in the two years since it announced an inquiry into allegations of crimes against humanity by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2003 an 2004 and at secret CIA “black sites,” interrogation facilities in Lithuania, Poland and Romania.

The ICC investigation encompasses alleged crimes by all sides, including Afghan security forces and the Taliban, as well as a small number of U.S. personnel.

Last year, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revoked the visa of the court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, when she announced plans to pursue investigations of what happened, and threatened to revoke visas for other court officials investigating the actions of U.S. citizens.

An ICC appeals panel approved the investigation on June 5. Less than a week later, Trump signed an executive order authorizing the sanctions, and Pompeo signaled that a sustained U.S. campaign against the court would begin in coming weeks.

By Ellen Nakashima and Carol Morello, The Washington Post, 29 June 2020

Read more at The Washington Post

Photo: Gage Skidmore [CC-BY-SA-2.0] via Flickr

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