The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) condemns the US’ Donald Trump regime for imposing sanctions on two officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC): chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division.
The declaration of sanctions against Bensouda and Mochochoko on September 2 is a clear attack on the international body’s investigation into the war crimes committed by the US military, the Afghan government, the Taliban, and the Israeli government — even as it will also probe into the supposed war crimes of the security forces of Palestine.
It is in the interest of the people of the world that the US military, the Afghan government and the Taliban be investigated, tried and held accountable for their war crimes in Afghanistan. While the US is not a member of the ICC, Afghanistan is, and that is enough reason for US military personnel to be investigated in relation to war crimes that they committed in the Central Asian country.
Since 2017, Bensouda has been pushing for an investigation into alleged mass killings of civilians perpetrated by the Taliban and the alleged torture of many prisoners primarily by the Afghan government and secondarily by the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency — war crimes committed from 2003 to 2014. In March the ICC gave a greenlight to this investigation.
It is also in the interest of the people of the world that the US-backed Israeli government be investigated, tried and held accountable for its war crimes against the people of Palestine. While Israel is not a members of the ICC, Palestine is since 2015 after being recognized without opposition as a non-member observer state of the United Nations by the UN General Assembly in 2012. Israel can be investigated in relation to war crimes that it has committed in Palestine, and Palestinian authorities have welcomed the ICC investigation.
Since 2015, Bensouda has been pushing for an investigation into the mass killing of 2,250 Palestinians, 1,500 of whom were civilians, and the wounding of 11,000 more during the July-August 2014 attacks on Gaza according to UN and Palestinian estimates.
The majority of these deaths were caused by some 6,000 Israeli air raids on densely populated areas. More than 18,000 Palestinian homes were also destroyed and 73 medical facilities were damaged. In Israel’s side, 66 soldiers and six civilians died. In December 2019 the ICC approved the investigation into war crimes in Palestine.
It is clear that sanctions against Bensouda and Mochochoko are aimed at intimidating the ICC into backing down from its investigations or into shunning impartiality. We condemn the freezing of their assets, the banning of their travel to the US, the imposition of visa restrictions on their families, the prohibition on any US citizen from transacting with them, and the threat of imposing similar sanctions on individuals and institutions who could be accused of materially supporting them. We condemn Trump for issuing in June the executive order that serves as the legal basis for the imposition of these sanctions.
With its sanctions against Bensouda and Mochochoko, the Trump regime is further exposing US sanctions as imperialist tools that are used to advance its geopolitical interests. The sanctions on ICC officials are unprecedented and represent a new low. While the US tries to maintain the illusion that sanctions are deployed against terrorists and drug traffickers, human rights violators and plunderers, it is now using these against civil servants of an international judicial institution who are investigating war atrocities of the US and its allies.
The ILPS calls on the ICC to pursue the probe into the war crimes committed against the people of Afghanistan and Palestine and not be intimidated by US actions. According to its website, the ICC “investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.”
It therefore has the gravest obligation to investigate, try and hold accountable the US government, which has been the biggest perpetrator of the aforementioned crimes. For more than 18 years, the ICC has concentrated on cases in which many of the accused hail from Africa, and this has only meant US impunity for its terrible crimes.
US State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s comments on the ICC — that it is a “kangaroo court,” a “thoroughly broken and corrupted institution,” an “unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body,” and a “renegade, unlawful, so-called court” that is part of “illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction” and “continues to target Americans” — show nothing but contempt for the tribunal and reflect US defense of its exceptionalism, impunity against war crimes and mass atrocities, and unilateralism.
The imposition of sanctions is likewise part of Trump’s attempt to fire up right-wing “Make America Great Again” nationalism in preparation for the elections in November. He wants to show his white nationalist support base that the US is taking a strong stance against international institutions and countries that refuse to bow down to US might.
It is also part of the US’ attempt to recover primacy position in international affairs, asserting unilateral actions and carrying out attacks against international bodies that, while imperialist controlled, were created to prevent war crimes largely perpetrated by imperialist states. Trump wants the US to act like the global police it once fantasized itself to be at a time when it cannot do so anymore, because the world has become multipolar. Global powers have risen that serve as counter-poles to the US’ increasingly moribund whims and dictates.
This action by the Trump government sends an alarm signal to officials of other international bodies that it is attacking — the World Health Organization, for example, which it blames for the spread of Covid-19. With the European Union defending the ICC and the United Kingdom distancing itself from Trump’s move, international reactions to the sanctions highlight the US’ growing isolation in world politics.
The ILPS calls on the people of the world to condemn US sanctions against Bensouda and Mochochoko. The ICC should investigate the war crimes committed by the US and its allies in Afghanistan and Palestine. The Trump regime’s efforts to attack these investigations and the ICC should be exposed and opposed. Let us intensify our struggles against imperialism and its reactionary allies, including their militarism, wars and war crimes. ###