The Trump administration has revoked the U.S. visa of the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, weeks after vowing to take action against those investigating potential U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office, which sought to look into allegations of war crimes by Afghan or U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, said in a statement Friday that she will continue her obligations “with utmost commitment and professionalism, without fear or favor,” according to NPR. The action likely won’t affect Bensouda’s travel to the United States for briefings and meetings.
The unprecedented move follows a warning by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month that the United States would “take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course.”
“You should know if you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you will still have or will get a visa, or that you will be permitted to enter the United States,” Pompeo said during a press conference.
National security adviser John Bolton also threatened to take action against the tribunal, of which the United States has never been a member, last September. The Trump administration also said they may take similar action against those who investigate possible Israeli war crimes.
“I think this is of a piece with the Trump administration’s overall approach to international relations, which is quite clearly, anti-globalist,” Margaret M. deGuzman, co-director of Temple University’s Institute for International Law and Public Policy, told ThinkProgress.
deGuzman added that, because the Trump administration “is already essentially a pariah in the global community,” the move to revoke Bensouda’s visa won’t have much of an impact on the way the United States is viewed on the global stage.
“I think it’s just another effort to flex U.S. nationalist muscles at the expense of globalism,” she said. “This administration seems to enjoy thumbing its nose at the rest of the world and certainly at multilateral institutions.”
On Friday, the State Department confirmed its revocation of Bensouda’s U.S. visa, adding that “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.”
Bensouda’s 2017 request to open a probe into potential war crimes by American personnel in Afghanistan says there’s evidence that U.S. military and intelligence members “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.”
While threats to retaliate against ICC personnel are uncharted territory for the United States, previous administrations have taken action against the ICC in other ways. During the George W. Bush administration, for instance, the U.S. adopted a law protecting U.S. servicemembers from the ICC. The law included a provision that authorized military force should any American or citizen of a U.S. ally be held by the court.