US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday announced economic sanctions against the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda. Bensouda has held the position since 2012, when she replaced Argentinian Luis Moreno Ocampo, the ICC’s first chief prosecutor. Bensouda had previously served as Ocampo’s assistant.
Characterizing the ICC as “a thoroughly broken and corrupted institution” and noting that the United States is not a member of the court, having never ratified the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the court, Pompeo condemned what he called the ICC’s “illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction,” referring to chief prosecutor Bensouda’s investigation into alleged war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan.
On June 11, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13928 authorizing the Secretary of State to level economic sanctions against any ICC personnel engaged in any attempt to investigate or prosecute US personnel. The order considers any such attempt by the ICC to constitute “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”
Pompeo did not give any specific reason why the US was imposing sanctions now, only saying that the ICC “continues to target Americans.” Along with Prosecutor Bensouda, sanctions were also imposed on the ICC’s Head of Jurisdiction, Complementary, and Cooperation Division Phakiso Mochochoko for “materially assist[ing]” Bensouda. In addition, Pompeo announced that the State Department has restricted visas for certain unnamed individuals who are involved in the ICC’s investigation of US personnel.
Condemning the sanctions, the ICC on Wednesday called the actions an attempt to interfere with the court’s independence. It stated that the measures are “unprecedented” and “constitute serious attacks against the Court.”