07:24, April 05 58 0 theguardian.com

2019-04-05 07:24:04
US revokes visa of ICC prosecutor over Afghanistan inquiry

The US has revoked the visa of the international criminal court’s chief prosecutor in response to her intention to investigate potential war crimes by US soldiers in Afghanistan.

A statement from the office of Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian national, said she would continue to pursue her duties for the court, in The Hague, “without fear or favour”.

Last month, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, announced restrictions on any ICC staff who investigated US or allied personnel in a hardening of America’s policy of non-cooperation with the ICC.

The US has refused to recognise the ICC since its inception in 2002, weakening its authority and providing an excuse for other countries, most notably in Africa, to also pull their support. In 2017, Burundi became the first nation to leave the ICC.

Pompeo’s move came as he delivered another snub to multilateralism by refusing to attend a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in France on Friday.

Bensouda’s office said she had an “independent and impartial mandate” under the Rome statute governing the ICC . “The prosecutor and her office will continue to undertake that statutory duty with utmost commitment and professionalism, without fear or favour,” it added.

The ICC said the US decision was not expected to affect Bensouda’s trips to the UN in New York, where she gives regular briefings to the security council. The UN office is seen as covered by a form of diplomatic immunity.

Bensouda asked ICC judges in November 2017 for authorisation to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan government forces and international forces, including US troops.

The investigation is also expected to examine CIA activity in detention centres in Afghanistan. The court has not yet decided whether to launch a full-blown probe that would cover events after 2002.

Pompeo said on 15 March that the ICC was “attacking America’s rule of law”, as he announced a policy of imposing visa restrictions on “individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of US personnel”.

“If you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of US personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan you should not assume that you still have, or will get, a visa or that you will permitted to enter the United States,” Pompeo said.

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