US to bar entry to International Criminal Court investigators on Afghanistan actions

US weighs visa ban against ICC officials probing American soldiers’ actions in Afghanistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the U.S. will deny or revoke visas for International Criminal Court staff.

Pompeo's announcement came after John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser and a longtime critic of the ICC, threatened to impose sanctions on court officials in September if they continued to pursue an investigation of potential crimes by USA civilians or military personnel in Afghanistan.

The restrictions "may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis", Pompeo added.

Pompeo, speaking from the State Department Friday, said the restrictions include "persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation".

Bolton questioned the legitimacy of The Hague-based court, its mission and mandate, warned that the U.S. would thwart any attempt by its prosecutors to open investigations into Americans for alleged war crimes and other abuses in conflicts in Afghanistan or elsewhere. "We're prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course".

"The Trump administration is trying an end run around accountability", it said.

The ICC has not yet made a decision on whether to authorize that investigation.

The ICC and its supporters, including human rights groups that denounced Pompeo's announcement, argue that it is needed to prosecute cases when a country fails to do so or does an insufficient job of it.

Richard Dicker, worldwide justice director at Human Rights Watch, said the USA move "is a naked attempt to bully judges and impede justice for victims in Afghanistan" and "blatant contempt for the rule of law".

James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said Pompeo's remarks reflected the administration's view that worldwide law matters "only when it is aligned with United States national interests". While she didn't target the USA military, Bensouda said the inquiry sought "support and cooperation" from the Afghan government, other state parties and the worldwide community as a whole "to accomplish our objectives of ensuring accountability for the crimes committed and that the long-suffering victims of those crimes receive justice".

"The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court", Bolton said.

"We will not cooperate with the ICC".

John Bolton harshly condemned the ICC in one of his first speeches after becoming Trump's national security advisor in September.

In a statement he said that the court is "non-political and "an independent and impartial judicial institution crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under global law". We will not join the ICC.

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