President Joe Biden revoked a Trump executive order that authorized sanctions on International Criminal Court officials and lifted sanctions on two officials, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Friday.
Blinken also said the State Department terminated another Trump-era policy to impose visa restrictions on certain ICC officials.
“These decisions reflect our assessment that the measures adopted were inappropriate and ineffective,” he said.
The reversal of the Trump administration’s punitive actions toward the ICC were applauded by human rights organizations.
In June 2020, former President Donald Trump authorized sanctions and additional visa restrictions against International Criminal Court personnel in an attempt by the administration to strong-arm the international body out of an investigation into potential war crimes by US military and intelligence officials.
Three months later, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions against ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and the ICC’s Head of Jurisdiction, Complementary, and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko. The Trump administration had revoked Bensouda’s US entry visa in 2019.
The retaliatory moves by the Trump administration came after the ICC authorized a probe 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. They followed a push by Bensouda to investigate potential crimes committed by Israel against the Palestinians. She formally launched an investigation into into alleged war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian territories, as well as alleged war crimes by Palestinian militant groups like Hamas, in March of this year.
The September 2020 sanctions were swiftly condemned by the international tribunal, human rights organizations and the foreign minister of the Netherlands, where the ICC is based.
In his statement Friday, Blinken said they “continue to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations.”
“We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel. We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions,” he said.
“We are encouraged that States Parties to the Rome Statute are considering a broad range of reforms to help the Court prioritize its resources and to achieve its core mission of serving as a court of last resort in punishing and deterring atrocity crimes. We think this reform is a worthwhile effort,” Blinken added.
“Our support for the rule of law, access to justice, and accountability for mass atrocities are important U.S. national security interests that are protected and advanced by engaging with the rest of the world to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” he said.