United States Stands against Justice by Issuing Sanctions Against the ICC

By: Hannah Gavin

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

THE HAAG, The Netherlands – This summer United States President Donald Trump issued an executive order leveling sanctions against the International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and officials on the court.

ICC Lead Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. Photo Courtesy of NPR.

The sanctions were deemed a response to the ICC’s decision to investigate U.S. crimes in Afghanistan since the early 2000s. The ICC’s lead prosecutor asked for an investigation to be opened to examine the U.S.’s role in the country. Specifically, Bensouda wanted to look into the ways in which detainees were interrogated, and whether soldiers had committed war crimes including torture, cruel treatment, and sex crimes. The U.S. use of torture has been under a magnifying glass for decades and was only heightened by several public incidents of torture to detainees in U.S. custody, primarily in the Middle East and U.S. military prisons.   

The sanctions imposed cut off Bensouda and her colleagues from assets in the U.S. as well as from all commercial or financial transactions with U.S. banks and companies. This blow will turn not only American based companies away from the court but will affect the individual’s ability to utilize non-U.S. companies and banks who refuse their service for fear that they may be subject to sanctions for not complying. Sanctions have historically been utilized for terrorists, and to protect international peace and national security. They are not intended to be leveled against prosecutors who are working towards justice for international crimes. In addition, individuals have had severe restrictions placed on them regarding entrance to the U.S. 

This month a group of NGOs, faith-based groups, legal professionals, experts and former government officials released a letter in response to the sanctions. The signatures on the document comprised of 58 of the United States’ most respected organizations, colleges and professionals. They all unequivocally condemned the President’s actions. The group cited their reason for publishing the letter, “[I]t is uniquely dangerous, extreme, and unprecedented to utilize a mechanism designed to penalize criminals, their aiders, and abettors, against an independent judicial institution.” The letter went on to emphasize that the U.S. has placed itself on the side of impunity over justice. This effectively places the U.S. on the world stage against righteousness.  

In the first year of his term, Donald Trump chose the slogan “America First” to represent some of his policies and his ideals for the nation. He has shown this to mean that he protects the America he wants to. Immigrants and “outsiders” are not included. Although his apprehension toward an investigation of U.S. troops is not surprising, it is unsettling. As one of the leading nations in the World, with troops stationed in nearly every country globally, we have a responsibility. If we choose to place ourselves on the world stage as a protector, we have a duty to take responsibility for actions that are contradictory to that. We must stand on the side of justice, or we risk allowing impunity to reign.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Non-Governmental Organizations, Faith-Based Groups, Legal Professionals, Experts, and Former Government Officials Unequivocally Oppose U.S. Sanctions Against the International Criminal Court – 21 Sept. 2020

NPR News – Trump Administration Sanctions ICC Prosecutor Investigating Alleged U.S. War Crimes – 2 Sept. 2020

Author: Nadia Abed