The Trump administration has revoked the U.S. visa of the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, who has reported that American personnel may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office emphasized in a statement Friday confirming the revocation that she “has an independent and impartial mandate” under the court’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute.
“The Prosecutor and her office will continue to undertake that statutory duty with utmost commitment and professionalism, without fear or favor,” the statement said.
The State Department confirmed that Bensouda’s U.S. visa had been revoked and said, “The United States will take the necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and to protect our people from unjust investigation and prosecution by the International Criminal Court.”
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said last month that Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes or other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere and that it may do the same with those who seek action against Israel.
Bensouda’s office said the revocation of her visa shouldn’t affect her travel to the U.S. for meetings, including regular briefings at the United Nations Security Council. The prosecutor is expected to brief the Security Council next month on her investigations in Libya.
After the U.S. confrontation with the global tribunal, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “We expect the United States to live up to the agreement to allow for the travel of ICC staff members to do their work here at the United Nations.”
The U.S. has never been a member of the ICC, a court of last resort that prosecutes grave crimes only when other nations are unwilling or unable to bring suspects to justice.
The ICC prosecutor has a pending request to look into possible war crimes in Afghanistan that may involve Americans. The Palestinians have asked the court to bring cases against Israel.
Bensouda asked in 2017 to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by Afghan national security forces, the Taliban and Haqqani network militants, as well as U.S. forces and intelligence officials in Afghanistan since May 2003.
The request says there’s information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies “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.”
In 2000, the Clinton administration signed the Rome Statute that created the Hague-based court. However, President Clinton had reservations about the scope of the court’s jurisdiction and never submitted it for ratification to the Senate.
The George W. Bush administration then passed the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act, which sought to shield U.S. troops from potential prosecution by the ICC. In 2002, John Bolton, a Bush aide at the time who is now the White House national security advisor, traveled to New York to ceremonially “unsign” the Rome Statute at the United Nations.
In a speech to the American Society of International Law late last month, ICC President Chile Eboe-Osuji paid tribute to American involvement in previous international courts, from the post-World War II trials of Nazis in Nuremberg to U.N. tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
He urged Washington to support the ICC, “whose values and objectives are entirely consistent with the best instincts of America and her values.”