Civil society condemns the U.S. government’s attack against ICC officials and their families

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On 17th March 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo threatened to impose sanctions against senior International Criminal Court (ICC) staffers and their families, naming two ICC personnel involved with the investigation into the situation in Afghanistan.

On 5 March 2020, the Appeals Chamber of the ICC authorized the Prosecutor to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

While the ICC Prosecutor and civil society welcomed this decision, Mr. Pompeo decried it as a “breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body.”

In response to the U.S. Secretary of State’s latest remark, the ICC issued a statement declaring, “The Court stands firmly by all its officials and staff, who perform, with integrity and dedication, essential duties for the ICC's mandate on behalf of its 123 States Parties, which hail from all regions of the world.”

Civil society organizations have also issued statements showing their support towards the ICC and condemning Mr. Pompeo’s attack against the Court.

“ICC States Parties must protect the Court and its key personnel from being attacked simply for investigating allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Instead of aiding the investigation and prosecution of alleged war criminals, the U.S. government chose to intimidate international justice defenders and their families.” - Anjali Manivannan, Senior Programs Officer, WFM-IGP

“These threats merely distract from the US’s failure under successive administrations to hold perpetrators of torture and other mistreatment in CIA ‘black sites’ to account. The ICC only steps in where national authorities do not genuinely investigate grave crimes.” - Elizabeth Evenson, Associate Director, International Justice Program, HRW

“To refer to the ICC, a body which for years has worked on addressing the most heinous of crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, as an embarrassment is the real embarrassment. Lack of political will to investigate crimes and prosecute those responsible has impeded the ICC’s vital work and Secretary Pompeo’s remarks have only exacerbated this.”- Daniel Balson, Advocacy Director, Amnesty International USA

“This is a moment for States Parties to the Rome Statute to protect this institution and ensure it can discharge its mandate to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The long-awaited Afghanistan investigation should not be imperilled by threats and intimidation – justice should be allowed to run its course.” - Kate Orlovsky, Director of the IBA’s ICC and International Criminal Law Programme

“This act of raw intimidation of the Prosecutor’s staff members is reckless and shocking in its display of fear rather than strength. The International Criminal Court has an independent and impartial mandate.  Secretary Pompeo’s crude threats against these two staffers debase America’s commitment to the rule of law. ”- A joint statement by Todd Buchwald, David Michael Crane, Benjamin Ferencz, Stephen J. Rapp, David Scheffer, and Clint Williamson, Just Security

Read our previous articles to learn more:

Letter to Secretary Pompeo on ICC recommendations

CICC members: Welcome Afghanistan decision highlights need to protect the ICC

US must not threaten ICC investigation into Afghanistan

Civil society calls the U.S. government to recant its ICC sanctions policy