US President Donald Trump lobbed a broadside attack on Thursday against the International Criminal Court (ICC) by authorising economic and travel sanctions against court workers directly involved in investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for possible war crimes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The United States “has repeatedly rejected the International Criminal Court’s assertions of jurisdiction over United States personnel”, read a statement from the White House press secretary.
The order would block the financial assets of court employees and bar them and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.
The ICC’s actions “are an attack on the rights of the American people and threaten to infringe upon our national sovereignty”, it said.
While Israel welcomed the move, there were expressions of concern and condemnation from the United Nations, the European Union and human rights groups.
The Hague-based court was created in 2002 to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide in areas where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice. It has 123 state parties that recognise its jurisdiction.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the tribunal as a “kangaroo court” that has been unsuccessful and inefficient in its mandate to prosecute war crimes.
He said that the U.S. would punish the ICC employees for any investigation or prosecution of Americans in Afghanistan and added that they could also be banned for prosecuting Israelis for alleged abuses against Palestinians.
“It gives us no joy to punish them,” Pompeo said. “But we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop and travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms.”