US imposes sanctions on top international criminal court officials
The US has imposed sanctions on the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court, Fatou Bensouda, in the latest of a series of unilateral and radical foreign policy moves.
Announcing the sanctions, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, did not give any specific reasons for the move other than to say the ICC “continues to target Americans” and that Bensouda was “materially assisting” that alleged effort.
He also announced sanctions against Phakiso Mochochoko, the ICC’s director of jurisdiction, complementary and cooperation division.
The US Treasury issued a statement saying Bensouda and Mochochoko had been deemed “specially designated nationals”, grouping them alongside terrorists and narcotics traffickers, blocking their assets and prohibited US citizens from having any dealings with them.
In June, Donald Trump issued an executive order imposing sanctions on ICC officials involved in investigating Americans, in response to the court’s decision to open an inquiry into war crimes committed by all sides in Afghanistan.
The US also opposes ICC scrutiny of potential Israeli crimes against Palestinians as part of an investigation that also looks at abuses carried out by Palestinian security forces.
The US was roundly condemned for its anti-ICC campaign, which was not supported by any other western democracy or US ally apart from Israel. The ICC said it was “an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the court’s judicial proceedings”.
The court said it would respond to the sanctioning of Bensouda and Mochochoko.
Richard Dicker, the international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said the announcement “marks a stunning perversion of US sanctions, devised to penalize rights abusers and kleptocrats, to persecute those tasked with prosecuting international crimes”.
“The Trump administration has twisted these sanctions to obstruct justice, not only for certain war crimes victims, but for atrocity victims anywhere looking to the international criminal court for justice,” Dicker said.
The decision to escalate its campaign against the ICC is one of a series of radical steps the Trump administration has taken on foreign policy that have left it isolated on the world stage.
On Monday, it was alone in voting against a counter-terrorism resolution in the UN security council. On other recent council votes involving US efforts to reimpose UN sanctions on Iran, Washington has only managed to secure the support of the Dominican Republic.
On Wednesday, Pompeo also confirmed that the US would not be taking part in an international effort to find a vaccine for Covid-19, because the World Health Organization was involved.
The administration has sought to blame the WHO for the pandemic, against which the US has fared worse than any other major industrialised economy.
“This administration wants multilateral institutions to function, to actually work, but multilateralism just for the sake of it, just to get together in a room and chat doesn’t add value,” Pompeo said.
“This should be a five-alarm fire for the UN,” Mark Leon Goldberg, the editor of the UN Dispatch newsletter, said on Twitter.
“It’s one small step from imposing sanctions against top WHO officials as part of Trump’s campaign to shift blame for his handling of Covid-19.”
The watchdog for the United States Postal Service released a report this week, in which it found that operational changes implemented in June and July had a negative impact on mail delivery across the country.
The reputation of Rudy Giuliani could be set for a further blow with the release of highly embarrassing footage in Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up to Borat.
Donald Trump maintains a bank account in China where he pursued licensing deals for years, according to a report that could undermine the president’s election campaign claim that he is tough on Beijing. Tax records reviewed by the New York Times showed a previously unreported bank account in China controlled by Trump International Hotels Management. The account paid $188,561 in taxes in China between 2013 and 2015 in connection to potential licensing deals, according the newspaper. Earlier reporting by the Times showed he paid just $750 in US taxes in 2016 and 2017.
As the 2020 presidential campaign hurtles toward a close, questions remain about a last-minute, $10 million lifeline Trump threw to his previous campaign, the one that catapulted him into the presidency. Speculation has swirled around the source of that money, with one report suggesting Trump might have gotten the funds from a casino magnate looking for help building a bullet train from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Another report pointed to the possibility of a shadowy foreign donation funneled through an Egyptian bank.