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PCHR Condemns US Economic Sanctions on International Criminal Court Officials

Ref: 86/2020

Date: 3 September 2020

Time: 14:30 GMT


The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is deeply concerned by the U.S. Presidential decision to place sanctions on senior members of the International Criminal Court (ICC).  This unprecedented move has serious implications for the rule of law, the pursuit of justice, and the interests of victims of international crimes from Palestine and the rest of the world.

On 2 September 2020, the United States (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced imposition of economic sanctions on the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Chief Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and the head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, Phakiso Mochochoko, in the latest of a series of unilateral measures against the Court.

The move builds on an executive order (US Executive Order 13928 dated 11 June 2020) issued by US President Donald Trump against court officials in June. The order, which established the framework for sanctions, followed the ICC’s authorization of an investigation into international crimes committed by the US in relation to the war crimes in Afghanistan as well as the ICC’s approval of an investigation into Israeli war crimes committed in Palestine.

In addition, the Secretary of State threatened that individuals and entities that continue to materially support investigations disfavoured by the US risk exposure to sanctions as well.

Commenting on the announcement, PCHR Director Raji Sourani stated:

“The U.S. President has launched a direct attack on the rule of international law that has sent shock waves around the world.

By directly targeting those seeking justice for international crimes, President Trump has explicitly said that instead of protecting victims and upholding international law, the U.S. will stand with those suspected of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The international community must respond. If unchallenged, this move risks replacing the rule of law with the rule of the jungle.

We will continue to demand our human rights, and to pursue justice. We cannot tolerate any move that grants impunity for international crimes.”

PCHR along with other Palestinian human rights organization have engaged extensively over the past few years with the ICC, and in particular the Office of the Prosecutor, in bringing about an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel against Palestinian civilians. On 20 December 2019, following five years of preliminary examination, the ICC prosecutor has announced that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into Rome Statute crimes committed in the situation in Palestine, pending a jurisdictional ruling from Pre-Trial Chamber I on the scope of the territorial jurisdiction of the ICC in Palestine. A ruling by the Pre-Trial Chamber I is expected soon.

In light of these development, PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the 123 member states of the Rome Statute, to condemn the measures taken by the US administration against the Court and its staff, and provide the necessary protection to allow the Court to operate in an independent and impartial manner.