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US bars entry of International Criminal Court investigators

16 March 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was prepared to take further steps, including economic sanctions, if the war crimes court goes ahead with any probes of USA or allied personnel.

Pompeo wants to circumscribe the unbiased ICC and have any wrongdoing committed by American personnel dealt with in USA military and criminal courts.

"This includes persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation".

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department, Friday, March 15, 2019 in Washington.

Bolton, a leading critic of the ICC said the Trump administration would impose sanctions on the court and take other measures to hamper its ability to function should it proceed with such probes.

The court has been hobbled by refusal of the US, Russia, China and other major nations to join.

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"These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies' consent", he added.

The US had already moved against some employees of The Hague-based court, Pompeo said, but he declined to say how many or what cases they may have been investigating.

The ICC and human rights groups reacted swiftly to Pompeo's remarks.

But rather than targeting global criminals, the Trump administration has set its sights on the ICC-an impartial judicial body that aims to promote accountability under worldwide law by probing and prosecuting crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide.

The ICC said in response it would continue its "independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law".

"Attacking worldwide judicial actors for doing their jobs undermines global efforts to hold to account those most responsible for atrocity crimes such as torture and mass murder", Goldston said.

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The ICC came into being in 2002 with over 120 members, including most European nations.

USA officials have long regarded the Netherlands-based ICC with hostility, arguing that American courts are capable of handling any allegations against US forces and questioning the motives of an global court.

Supporters of the court slammed Pompeo's announcement on Friday.

Human Rights Watch called the announcement a "thuggish attempt to penalise investigators" at the court.

"These visa restrictions will not be the end of our efforts", Pompeo said.

The secretary of state said the U.S. had declined to join the ICC "because of its broad unaccountable prosecutorial powers" and the threat it proposes to American national sovereignty.

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"Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked", she said, and called on USA lawmakers to rescind the move and express support for the court.

US bars entry of International Criminal Court investigators