National Security

Pompeo slaps visa restrictions on international court probing US military

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Friday that the United States would restrict visas of any International Criminal Court (ICC) staffers who investigate actions by U.S. military personnel.

The move signifies an effort by the Trump administration to increase pressure on the ICC over its proposed inquiry into alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.

"I am announcing a policy of U.S. visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of U.S. personnel," Pompeo said in remarks at the State Department Friday morning. "This includes persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation. These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies' consent."

Pompeo declined to provide details on the number of visas that could be affected but said the administration had already begun implementing the policy. He described the restrictions as "part of a continued effort to convince the ICC to change course with its potential investigation and potential prosecution of Americans."

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

The Trump administration had already threatened stern action against the court. John Bolton, President Trump's national security adviser and a longtime critic of the ICC, said in September that the administration was prepared to impose sanctions on the court if it continues with the Afghanistan probe - something Pompeo reiterated on Friday.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced in November 2017 that she would seek permission from the court to pursue a formal investigation into the Afghan conflict, citing a "reasonable basis to believe" war crimes had been committed in connection with the years-long war. A decision on whether the court will allow the investigation could come at any time.

The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity after human rights groups and other nongovernment organizations pushed for its creation. The court boasts 123 member states, including the European Union, but the United States is not a party to it.

Groups that support the international tribunal panned Pompeo's announcement.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the Human Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union, described the policy as a "blatant effort to intimidate and retaliate against judges, prosecutors, and advocates seeking justice for victims of serious human rights abuses."

Pompeo on Friday suggested the court was pursuing "politically motivated prosecutions" and accused the ICC of "attacking" American rule of law.

"It's not too late for the court to change course, and we urge that it do so immediately," Pompeo said.

Updated at 12:38 p.m.