United States to deny visas to ICC officials who probe American troops, Israel

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answers questions at the State Department in Washington

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answers questions at the State Department in Washington

"I'm announcing a policy of U.S. visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of USA personnel", the secretary of state said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by law could not specifically name individuals who will be denied visa entry, but he said other restrictions could be added if the ICC persists in the investigation that began in 2017.

Pompeo said the policy was already being implemented but would not elaborate, citing visa privacy laws.

Pompeo also warned about potential economic sanctions "if the ICC does not change its course".

The Trump administration in September said that if the court launched a probe of war crimes in Afghanistan, it would consider banning ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, sanctioning funds they have there and prosecuting them in USA courts.

United States to deny visas to ICC officials who probe American troops, Israel

Richard Dicker, global justice director at Human Rights Watch, said the United States move "is a naked attempt to bully judges and impede justice for victims in Afghanistan" and "blatant contempt for the rule of law".

Following up on a threat made last September by hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton, Pompeo said Friday that the USA has already begun moving against a handful of employees at the ICC.

Pompeo's announcement of visa restrictions was the first concrete action taken by the USA against the ICC since the White House threatened reprisals against the Hague-based body in September of a year ago.

"The ICC is attacking America's rule of law", Pompeo told a news conference on Friday. The Palestinians have also asked the court to bring cases against Israel.

Last year, President Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that the USA would never surrender its sovereignty by supporting the ICC and would always regard it as an illegitimate global institution. In 2002, Bolton, then a State Department official, traveled to NY to ceremonially "unsign" the Rome Statute at the United Nations.

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The International Criminal Court is supported by 123 nations, including Switzerland.

"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.

Al Jazeera's Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said ICC investigators were also seeking to probe the United States military's conduct "not just in Afghanistan, but also in black sites that we now know was spread across the globe, where they were held in secret detention for months, and where some say detainees were tortured".

The United States' decision to revoke visas and refuse to grant new ones to the staff of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague echoes the worst human rights abusers and totalitarian regimes, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a statement on Friday.

"Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked", the group's Washington director, Andrea Prasow, said, calling on US lawmakers to express support for the court. The United States has rejected the ICC since the body was first proposed during the Clinton administration, claiming it would be used by U.S. enemies for politically motivated attacks against Americans serving overseas, especially USA service members.

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It said that all states were obliged to prosecute and punish the most serious crimes.

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