President Biden on Friday lifted sanctions against two prosecutors at the International Criminal Court who are investigating US troops for possible war crimes in Afghanistan.
The Trump administration enacted the sanctions in September, also citing an investigation of possible Israeli misconduct.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a statement, “Today, President Biden revoked Executive Order 13928 … ending the threat and imposition of economic sanctions and visa restrictions in connection with the Court.”
“As a result, the sanctions imposed by the previous administration against ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, the Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division of the Office of the Prosecutor, have been lifted,” Blinken said.
Blinken said that “[w]e continue to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations.”
The top US diplomat echoed the Trump administration’s stance, saying, “We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel.”
But Blinken did not say if the sanctions were lifted in exchange for any assurances from the ICC.
In September, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unveiled sanctions against Bensouda, a citizen of The Gambia, and Mochochoko, a citizen of Lesotho, for investigating US troops, arguing the review was political and that US courts already address any wrongdoing by American troops.
“Individuals and entities that continue to materially support those individuals risk exposure to sanctions as well,” Pompeo said.
In June, then-President Donald Trump authorized sanctions against ICC workers after the court’s appeals chamber authorized an investigation of possible Afghanistan war crimes, rebuffing previous US warnings, including Pompeo threatening visa bans on participants.
The biting sanctions, imposed by the US Treasury, made it difficult of the pair to make financial transactions.
Pompeo called the ICC “a thoroughly broken and corrupted institution” and said “we will not tolerate its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”