President Donald Trump issued an executive order to sanction top officials on an international court responsible for investigating war crimes after the court announced potential investigations into U.S. misconduct during the war in Afghanistan.
During a press conference on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that top officials on the International Criminal Court could face economic sanctions, to be determined on a case-by-case basis, for investigating the actions of the U.S. and allied forces against the will of those nations. In addition, the officials, along with their families, will be restricted from traveling to the United States.
Pompeo was joined at the press conference by Attorney General William Barr, Defense Secretary Mike Esper and national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
In March, the International Criminal Court, which is based in The Hague, Netherlands, authorized an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2014. The investigation will look into actions taken by the Taliban and troops from multiple countries, including the United States, that may have defied international war crimes law regarding the treatment of civilians and prisoners. Back in March, Pompeo called the inquiry “breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body.” On Thursday, he referred to the court’s investigation as an “ideological crusade.”
More than 100 countries count themselves as members of the International Criminal Court, which was created in 2002 to investigate and try “individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.”
The United States officially opposed the formation of the court and is not one of the member countries, who may choose to defer to it on human rights matters. The court was established to prosecute these offenses for nations unwilling or unable to prosecute them on their own.
“The United States maintains the sovereign right and obligation to properly investigate and address any of our personnel’s alleged violations of the laws of war,” Esper said on Thursday. “We have a proven record of doing just that.”
The Trump administration’s announcement of sanctions against war crimes investigators is in line with the president’s own support of people who violate human rights. Trump has repeatedly touted murderous dictators and said he “gets along” with them; he has downplayed the brutal killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was reportedly authorized by Saudi Arabian leader Mohammed bin Salman; he has pardoned and saluted U.S. service members accused of war crimes; and he has publicly threatened to authorize war crimes.