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UN chief concerned over US sanctions against top ICC prosecutor

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the ICC of “illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction”, announcing sanctions against Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the Head of the Jurisdiction Complementarity and Cooperation Division, Phakiso Mochochoko.

The United Nations said on Thursday the court has faced criticism from the US since it was founded in 2004, and along with Russia and China, remains one of a dozen countries that have declined to sign up to its jurisdiction.

 A UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said Thursday “we continue to closely follow developments on this matter”.

As the top prosecutor, Bensouda has visited the US frequently to attend key meetings at the UN Security Council and in a statement issued late Wednesday, the ICC said the new measures “are another attempt to interfere with the Court’s judicial and prosecutorial independence and crucial work to address grave crimes of concern to the international community as mandated under the ICC Rome Statute.”

“These coercive acts, directed at an international judicial institution and its civil servants, are unprecedented and constitute serious attacks against the Court, the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, and the rule of law more generally,” the statement read.

The Court said it would continue to “stand firmly by its personnel and its mission of fighting impunity for the world’s most serious crimes under international law, independently and impartially, in accordance with its mandate.

Meanwhile, O-Gon Kwon, President of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) – the Court’s management oversight and legislative body – strongly rejected what he also described as the “unprecedented” measures against the treaty-based international organization.

“I deeply regret measures targeting Court officials, staff and their families”, he said. 

Calling the ICC an “independent and impartial” court of law that “operates in strict adherence to the provisions of the Rome Statute”, he said he would convene an extraordinary meeting of the Bureau next week, “to consider how to renew our unwavering commitment to the Court”.