U.S. Revokes ICC Prosecutor's Visa Amid White House Crackdown on Global Tribunal

Pompeo has said in the past that Washington would revoke or deny visas to staff seeking to investigate alleged U.S. crimes and abuses as well as those seeking action against Israel

FILE Photo: Public Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda attends the trial of Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda at the ICC in the Hague, the Netherlands, August 28, 2018.
Bas Czerwinski/Reuters

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Friday that her U.S. visa has been revoked, in what appears to be evidence of a crackdown on the global tribunal by the Trump administration.

In a statement confirming the revocation, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office stressed that she “has an independent and impartial mandate” under the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute.

“The Prosecutor and her office will continue to undertake that statutory duty with utmost commitment and professionalism, without fear or favor,” the statement said.

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Bensouda’s office said that the revocation of her visa shouldn’t have an impact on her travel to the U.S. for meetings, including regular briefings at the UN Security Council. The U.S. has never been a member of the ICC, a court of last resort that prosecutes grave crimes only when other nations are unwilling or unable to bring suspects to justice.

Bensouda is expected to brief the Security Council next month on her investigations in Libya.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere and may do the same with those who seek action against Israel.

The ICC prosecutor has a pending request to look into possible war crimes in Afghanistan that may involve Americans. The Palestinians have also asked the court to bring cases against Israel.

Pompeo said in March that his move was necessary to prevent the court from infringing on U.S. sovereignty by prosecuting American forces or allies for torture or other war crimes.

“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.

Bensouda asked last year to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by Afghan national security forces, Taliban and Haqqani network militants, as well as U.S. forces and intelligence officials in Afghanistan since May 2003.

The request says there is information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.”

The United States has never been a member of the Hague-based court, even though the Clinton administration in 2000 signed the Rome Statute that created it. However, he had reservations about the scope of the court’s jurisdiction and never submitted it for ratification to the Senate.

When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, his administration passed the American Service Members Protection Act, which sought to immunize U.S. troops from potential prosecution by the ICC. In 2002, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, then a State Department official, traveled to New York to ceremonially “unsign” the Rome Statute at the United Nations.

In a speech to the American Society of International Law late last month, ICC President Chile Eboe-Osuji paid tribute to American involvement in previous international courts, from the post-World War II trials of Nazis in Nuremberg to UN tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

He urged Washington to support the ICC “whose values and objectives are entirely consistent with the best instincts of America and her values.”