The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) expresses its disappointment and strongly condemns the imposition of sanctions by the United States government on the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda and Mr. Phakiso Mochochoko, the Head of Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Divisions pursuant to Executive Order 13928 signed by the President of the United States of America on 11 June 2020. The imposition of these sanctions was announced by the Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo at a Press Briefing on 2 September 2020. The ICC Prosecutor requested the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC on 20 November 2017 to commence investigations into alleged crimes committed by US military and other personnel during the armed conflict in Afghanistan since 1 May 2003. The request was unanimously authorised by the ICC Appeals Chamber on 5 March 2020. The US government response is, therefore, a retaliation to these steps taken by the Prosecutor.
SALC condemns the steps taken by the US government as these undermine and interfere with the independence of the ICC to discharge its functions without fear or favour. As an essential pillar in international criminal justice, any step taken by states that undermines the legitimacy and the pursuit of international justice by the ICC must be condemned. The US government’s decision amounts to intimidation aimed at deterring ICC investigations for crimes allegedly committed by US citizens.
SALC’s Executive Director, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, commenting on Pompeo’s announcement said, “The regressive step taken by the US government speaks volumes about the country’s priorities on matters of justice, accountability, and the prevention of egregious crimes. We call upon the US government to reverse this decision and to ensure that states, even those who are not ICC members respect the independence and integrity of the ICC. We further caution against the bullying and targeting of individual staff members”.
SALC calls upon all ICC member states to reject these attempts by the US government to intimidate ICC staff members and to protect the integrity and independence of the Office of the Prosecutor and its staff to enable them to discharge their mandate without interference.
03 September 2020