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EU ‘standing by’ ICC after US sanctions the court’s prosecutor

28-nation bloc ‘not happy’ with Washington’s move, which came in protest of war crimes probe into US military personnel in Afghanistan

By Agencies and TOI staff, Thursday 3 September 2020

The European Union will defend the International Criminal Court against attempts to undermine it, a spokesman for the bloc said Thursday after Washington slapped sanctions on the Hague-based tribunal’s top prosecutor.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday announced sanctions against ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and another senior court official, Phakiso Mochochoko, over a war crimes probe into US military personnel in Afghanistan.

Washington has long rejected the ICC’s jurisdiction over US citizens, but the court’s investigation into allegations of atrocities in Afghanistan, as well as into allies such as Israel, has seen US President Donald Trump’s administration turn low-level opposition into a concerted campaign against the institution.

“The International Criminal Court is facing persistent external challenges and the European Union stands firm against all attempts to undermine the international system of criminal justice by hindering the work of its core institutions,” Peter Stano, spokesman for EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell, told reporters.

“We are committed to strengthen our support to the ICC because this is key factor in fighting against impunity. We are standing by the ICC and we are not happy to see steps which are going against the activities of the ICC.”

Pompeo has dismissed the ICC as a “kangaroo court” and the US insists it has its own procedures for investigating allegations against its troops.

Bensouda also announced in December there was a “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed” in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem by both the Israel Defense Forces and terrorist group Hamas, as well as other “Palestinian armed groups.” However, she kicked the question of jurisdiction to the judges, delaying the case until they can rule. A three-judge panel at the ICC is expected to soon rule whether the court has jurisdiction over the Palestinian territories and can launch an investigation into alleged war crimes.

Israel has long argued that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the case, as there is no sovereign Palestinian state that could delegate to the court criminal jurisdiction over its territory and nationals.

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