The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) expresses its disappointment and condemns the remarks made by the United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo on 17 March 2020, concerning the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate crimes committed in Afghanistan. The Secretary of State alluded to the possibility of the ICC implicating US citizens for alleged crimes committed in the region. He also named two members of the Office of the Prosecutor’s staff and their families as being targets for possible US sanctions. SALC condemns this statement which aims to obstruct and interfere in the independence of ICC’s investigation. As a judicial institution mandated to investigate the commission of serious crimes, the ICC must be allowed to work without fear or favour. As the ICC is an independent judicial institution, it can only act when national jurisdictions are unwilling or unable to do so. This means that if the United States investigates and prosecutes its own citizens for crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan, it may hold them accountable in the United States. Accordingly, the US government has no reason to fear investigations being conducted by the ICC. They should further refrain from undermining the legitimate judicial process being pursued by the court on this matter.
SALC’s Executive Director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh commented, “SALC is disappointed with the statement made by, Michael Pompeo, the United States Secretary of State, particularly regarding the apparent targeting of ICC staff and their families. This is unacceptable and amounts to intimidation. It is further concerning that the US is seeking to deter ICC investigations instead of supporting accountability for the perpetrators of international crimes.”
The ICC remains an important pillar of international criminal justice and the US Secretary of State’s statement is a retrogressive step that raises great concern about US priorities on matters of justice, accountability and the prevention of egregious crimes. The work of the Office of the Prosecutor must be protected and supported by all state parties to the ICC.