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Pompeo: US to Impose Visa Restrictions Over ICC Actions

Pompeo: US to Impose Visa Restrictions Over ICC Actions

The United States will revoke or deny visas to International Criminal Court (ICC) personnel seeking to investigate possible war crimes by U.S. forces or allies in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

"I'm announcing a policy of USA visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel", Pompeo told a news conference in Washington. "It's not too late for the court to change course and we urge that it do so immediately".

The Trump administration in September said that if the court launched a probe of war crimes in Afghanistan, it would consider banning ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanctioning funds they have there and prosecuting them in USA courts.

"The first and highest obligation of our government is to protect its citizens and this administration will carry out that duty", Pompeo said Friday.

"I'm announcing a policy of USA visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of US personnel", Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the new visa restrictions would include "persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation". Major powers, including the United States, China and Russian Federation, are not members.

The secretary of state said visas could also be withheld from ICC personnel involved in conducting probes of USA allies, specifically Israel.

The US had already moved against some employees of The Hague-based court, Pompeo said, but he declined to say how many or what cases they may have been investigating.

"These visa restrictions will not be the end of our efforts", Pompeo said.

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The ICC has not yet made a decision on whether to authorize that investigation.

Warning that "the court could eventually pursue politically motivated prosecutions of Americans", the secretary of state told reporters that the Trump administration is "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".

He said any wrongdoing committed by American personnel would be dealt with in United States military and criminal courts.

"When US service members fail to adhere to our strict code of military conduct they are reprimanded, courtmartialed and sentenced, if that's what's deserved", he said.

But rather than targeting global criminals, the Trump administration has set its sights on the ICC-an impartial judicial body that aims to promote accountability under worldwide law by probing and prosecuting crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

"That the administration has chosen visa bans, powerful tools typically reserved for the most serious of human rights abusers, to prevent investigation into allegations involving some of the most serious crimes in the world is highly indicative of its culture of disregard for rights abuses". "The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law".

Human Rights Watch called the announcement a "thuggish attempt to penalise investigators" at the court.

James Goldston, the executive director of Open Society Justice Initiative, said the new sanctions would undermine efforts to hold to account those responsible for the worst war crimes.

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