The International Criminal Court in Difficult Times: Challenges ...

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday expressed “profound regret” and concern that at the US decision to impose sanctions against it that may impede ongoing investigations throughout the world.

US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday a litany of sanctions against the ICC, its staff and those aiding the investigation. The announcement followed the recent decision by the ICC to approve an investigation into “alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan in the period since 1 May 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan,” that may have been committed by the US and its allies.

The court has decried these sanctions as “threats and coercive actions,” which undermine the fundamental purpose of the court to pursue justice the world over. The ICC has also reaffirmed that it “stands firmly by its staff and officials and remains unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate bestowed upon it by the Rome Statute and the States that are party to it.”

The US is not a party member to the Rome Statute. Therefore even a successful investigation would have limited if any ability to pursue further actions against US personnel. However, Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute and therefore is within ICC jurisdiction. The ICC represents 123 nations across all regions of the world. It exists as an independent justice mechanism that provides objective investigations with impartial judicial proceedings.

The Trump administration’s decision to enact sanctions against the court at the commencement of the investigation rather than upon an unsatisfactory conclusion is one that has faced harsh criticism as an action that subverts efforts to uncover the truth rather than simply protect US citizens and limit ICC jurisdiction. Furthermore, the act of issuing sanctions may complicate other investigations across the world as the ICC attempts to deal with strict limitations imposed on it.

The ICC believes that the US’s “attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings.” The ICC also stated that the sanctions were “announced with the declared aim of influencing the actions of ICC officials,” and that, “An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.”

In a joint statement published Thursday, 10 ICC states party reaffirmed their “unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial institution.” The President of the Assembly of States Parties for the Rome Statute also published a statement on Friday supporting the ICC and condemning the US sanctions against them.

See the Executive orders issued by Trump