US to review sanctions on ICC officials who investigated Afghan killings

ICC actions relating to Afghanistan and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be reviewed

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Covid-19 pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on  Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. Biden said his administration intends to order 100 million more doses each of Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccines, and at least temporarily speed up shipments to states to about 10 million doses a week. Photographer: Doug Mills/The New York Times/Bloomberg

The US will "thoroughly review" sanctions on International Criminal Court officials over investigations into the conduct of US forces in Afghanistan, a State Department spokesman said on Tuesday.

"Much as we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Israeli/Palestinian situations, the sanctions will be thoroughly reviewed as we determine our next steps," the spokesman said in a written response.

The Donald Trump administration last year accused The Hague-based tribunal of infringing on US national sovereignty when it authorised an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Afghan forces, the Taliban or US troops.

It targeted court staff, including prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, with asset freezes and travel bans for investigating American citizens without US consent.

In 2017, Ms Bensouda said there was evidence to suggest US military and intelligence personnel “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period".

Last year, appeal judges at the ICC gave approval for prosecutors to investigate the Taliban, Afghan forces and US military and intelligence personnel for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The US is not an ICC member.

Mr Trump's secretary of state Mike Pompeo also opposed an investigation launched in 2019 into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, including the actions of Israeli forces.

The ICC's investigation with respect to Israel is centred on crimes committed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as the officials responsible for Israel’s illegal settlement programme.

The administration of President Joe Biden supports reforms "to help the court better achieve its core mission of punishing and deterring atrocity crimes" and may co-operate with the ICC in "exceptional cases", the State Department spokesman said.

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