Member States Defend 'Impartial' International Court in the Face of U.S. Sanctions

Countries reaffirm their support for the Hague-based tribunal after Trump imposed sanctions over 'kangaroo court' probe of war crimes

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The International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, on November 7, 2019.
The International Criminal Court, or ICC, is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, on November 7, 2019. Credit: Peter Dejong,AP

More than half of the member states of the International Criminal Court on Tuesday defended the world's only permanent war crimes tribunal, in a diplomatic response to a U.S. threat of sanctions against its employees earlier this month.

A joint statement drafted by Costa Rica and Switzerland was backed by 67 out of 123 of the ICC's members.

"As parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal court we reconfirm our unwavering support for the court as an independent and impartial judicial institution," it said.

Washington opposes the ICC because it fears politically motivated prosecutions of the United States and ally Israel.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order two weeks ago authorising the blocking of assets and travel restrictions against ICC employees involved in a probe into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, also by U.S. forces.

The letter from over 60 ICC members marks the first effort to show a united front among members from all continents. In the statement the countries stressed that the court is an "integral part" of the judicial international order and "a central institution in the fight against impunity".

In announcing the executive order signed by Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "We cannot, we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court."

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to investigate possible crimes committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as the alleged torture of prisoners by Afghan authorities and, to a lesser extent, by U.S. forces and the CIA. The ICC investigation was given the go-ahead in March.

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