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VOL. 44 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 28, 2020

New US sanctions on international tribunal prosecutor, aide

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and one of her top aides for continuing to investigate war crimes allegations against Americans.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the moves as part of the administration's pushback against the tribunal, based in The Hague, for investigations into the United States and its allies. The sanctions include a freeze on assets held in the U.S. or subject to U.S. law and target prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the court's head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko.

Pompeo had previously imposed a travel ban on Bensouda and other tribunal employees because of its investigation into allegations of torture and other crimes by Americans in Afghanistan.

Human rights groups and others have condemned the administration's moves against the court and Wednesday's announcement was immediately met with withering criticism from them.

Richard Dicker, the international justice director at Human Rights Watch, called it "a stunning perversion of U.S. sanctions, devised to penalize rights abusers and kleptocrats, to persecute those tasked with prosecuting international crimes."

"The Trump administration has twisted these sanctions to obstruct justice, not only for certain war crimes victims, but for atrocity victims anywhere looking to the International Criminal Court for justice," he said.

In March 2019, Pompeo ordered the revocation or denial of visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes and other abuses by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere. He also said he might revoke the visas of those who seek action against Israel.

Prosecutors have been conducting a preliminary inquiry since 2015 in the Palestinian territories, including Israel's settlement policy, crimes allegedly committed by both sides in the 2014 Gaza conflict and Hamas rocket attacks aimed at Israeli civilians.

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