US lifts sanctions against ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
OSeveno, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
US lifts sanctions against ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Friday that the United States would lift sanctions on International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that former President Donald Trump had imposed in September of last year. Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed sanctions on ICC staff after Bensouda launched an investigation into the US military’s involvement in carrying out war crimes in Afghanistan. The US then imposed travel bans on ICC staff and froze staff assets to block the investigation.

Blinken announced that the State Department also planned to cancel a 2019 policy imposing visa restrictions on ICC members, saying that the “decisions reflect our assessment that the measures adopted were inappropriate and ineffective.” While the State Department still opposes the ICC’s decision to investigate US war crimes in Afghanistan and Palestine — as well as ICC efforts to “assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel” — the State Department plans to move forward with the policy cancellation.

Blinken said Washington would continue to help the ICC “prioritize its resources and to achieve its core mission of serving as a court of last resort in punishing and deterring atrocity crimes.”

The ICC welcomed the decision, stating that the move would allow for better cooperation between the US and the international community. “I trust this decision signals the start of a new phase of our common undertaking to fight against impunity,” said Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, ICC head of Association of States Parties.