Washington (In Palestine Today)- US President Joe Biden has revoked sanctions on top officials at the International Criminal Court that were imposed under the Trump administration, the State Department announced Friday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the economic sanctions imposed on ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and a top aide in 2019 “were inappropriate and ineffective,” and were therefore lifted.
“We continue to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations. We maintain our longstanding objection to the court’s efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-states parties such as the United States and Israel,” Blinken said.
He added, “We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions.”
The ICC welcomed the decision in a brief statement posted online.
“The International Criminal Court welcomes today’s decision by the Government of the United States to revoke Executive Order 13928, ending sanctions and visa restrictions against personnel of the ICC,” the ICC tweeted.
Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, president of the court’s management body of member states, said the US removal of sanctions was helpful in promoting “a rules-based international order.”
“I welcome this decision which contributes to strengthening the work of the Court and, more generally, to promoting a rules-based international order,” she said.
She added, “I trust this decision signals the start of a new phase of our common undertaking to fight against impunity for such crimes. The Assembly and its subsidiary bodies have always welcomed the participation of the United States, and indeed of all States, in their work as well as encouraged a fruitful cooperation with the Court´s activities.”
Last year, former US President Donald Trump imposed economic and travel sanctions against International Criminal Court employees investigating abuses by Americans and its allies, including the occupation state of ‘Israel’.
Under these sanctions, any employee who “have directly engaged in any effort by the ICC to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any United States personnel without the consent of the United States or the personnel of countries that are United States allies” may be subject to sanctions.
This step comes months after the ICC authorized last year a probe into war crimes committed in Afghanistan by US and Afghan forces. It also follows the court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda decision to open an investigation into crimes committed by ‘Israel’ against the Palestinians.
The Biden administration has sought to distance itself from the policies of the previous administration and wants to ease tensions with European governments and with human rights organizations over the restrictions, according to a report issued on Wednesday night by the US State Department.
A spokesperson for the State Department said, “Much as we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian Situations, the administration is thoroughly reviewing sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13928 as we determine our next steps.”
The new US administration supports reforms “to help the court better achieve its core mission of punishing and deterring atrocity crimes” and may cooperate with the ICC in “exceptional cases,” the State Department spokesman added.
The Biden administration must also respond by April 5 to a lawsuit filed in October which challenges the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order which invoked the sanctions, according to Foreign Policy. The executive order is due to expire in June.
The chief prosecutor of the ICC said recently that she launched a formal probe into Israeli war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The investigation will cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the Situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the Referral of the Situation to my Office,” she added.
‘Israel’ is not a member of the ICC and neither is the US, the Palestinians joined the court in 2015; both ‘Israel’ and the US reject the ICC jurisdiction.