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

Coalition for the ICC

On 9 October, the U.S. Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo announced that the U.S. would impose visa sanctions on “any and all ICC officials determined to be directly responsible for an ICC investigation of U.S. personnel, or of allied personnel without our allies’ consent."

Mr. Pompeo's statement comes almost a month after the International Criminal Court (ICC) Pre Trial Chamber II’s decision on 17 September that granted the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to appeal the Court's 12 April decision, in which the court refused the OTP permission to open an investigation into grave crimes committed in Afghanistan

In March, the Trump Administration imposed punitive sanctions on Fatou Bensouda, the Prosecutor, in retaliation for the OTP’s application to the ICC for permission to open an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan.

Mr. Pompeo also stated that the U.S. respects the decision taken by States that joined the ICC and expects the same countries to respect the decision taken by the US not to join the Rome Statute.

Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) published its press release on 10 October 2019 stating that the renewed threat by the U.S. government to impose more sanctions against Judges and Prosecutors working for the ICC sets a dangerous and highly damaging precedent.

The CICC is a global network of more than 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries. Its member organizations have asked the U.S. government to recant its ICC sanctions policy. Read below their statements. 


Michelle Reyes, Americas Regional Coordinator for the CICC

“Continuing to threaten sanctions against ICC officials for carrying out their mandate is an unfortunate move, which weakens the Court’s capacity to act in an impartial manner. States and relevant stakeholders should remain vocal and vigilant in their support of the Court’s independence.”

Alison Smith, the International Justice Director for No Peace Without Justice

"With yesterday's statement, Secretary Pompeo is yet again trying to pervert the course of justice by threatening, intimidating and retaliating against those who are simply carrying out their duties to ensure justice for the crimes committed in Afghanistan, irrespective of who the perpetrators may be. How can the US demand respect for their decisions while simultaneously disrespecting the 122 countries that have chosen to join the ICC, including Afghanistan."

Katherine Gallagher, Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and victims' legal representative in the ICC Afghanistan appeal

"As the ICC rightly begins a review of the misguided decision to foreclose an investigation of the Afghanistan Situation, including U.S. torture on ICC member states' territories, the Trump administration renews its attacks on this court of last resort."
"This improper attack on a court of law and blatant attempt to intimidate independent judges echoes the wholesale disregard for the rule of law on full display by the Trump administration at home. We call upon the U.S. to act like a democracy, not a dictatorship, and the ICC to send a clear message that it won't be bullied," Ms. Gallagher continued.

Jennifer Trahan, a Professor at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs

“A policy of constructive engagement with the Court would better serve US interests and be more in line with the policy of major European allies that support the Court; it is unfortunate that the US has a policy that is hostile to the Court.”

Hadi Marifat, Executive Director, Afghanistan Human Rights & Democracy Organization

“Afghanistan is a sovereign nation that ratified the Rome Statute in 2003. War crimes and/or crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan by any actor after 2003 are within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. Any steps the US states it will take to avoid this reality are outside the legal process and should be rejected by all countries and people who believe in the rule of law.”

Guissou Jahangiri, FIDH Vice-President and Director of Armanshahr|OPEN ASIA

"For decades the Afghan people have been victims of all sorts of warmongers whilst struggling for the realisation of their rights to peace, development and justice. Impunity and criminality feed each other in the country."
"The United States' blatant war against the ICC, the unique justice avenue available to Afghans, is yet another appalling attempt to prevent victims from accessing truth and justice," Ms. Jahangiri continued.

Liz Evenson, Associate International Justice Director at Human Rights Watch

“Pompeo’s restatement of US threats is another effort to bully the ICC away from the scrutiny of US conduct and deny victims’ access to justice.”
“ICC member countries should work together to defend the court’s independence, including during their December annual meeting,” Ms. Evenson continued.

Dr Tawanda Hondora, the Executive Director of the CICC

“We appeal to the U.S. Senate and Congress to help reverse this policy, which serves no purpose other than to undermine the ICC through the pernicious targeting of those who work for the institution.”

To know the background and previous reactions of the civil society on this issue, please read our blog,

ICC’s decision on Afghanistan Investigation