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EU Foreign Ministers Should Defend the ICC

US Authorizes Sanctions Against ICC Officials and Others

Permanent premises of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands. © 2018 Marina Riera/Human Rights Watch

Sanctions should be imposed against rights violators, not against those pursuing justice for the worst violations amounting to serious international crimes.

However, the US administration has escalated its unprecedented attacks against the International Criminal Court (ICC). President Trump signed an executive order on June 11 authorizing asset freezes and family visa bans against ICC officials and potentially others assisting certain ICC investigations. The language used in the order seems designed to chill investigative efforts and cooperation with the court. To ensure its mandate is not undermined, the court needs its 123 member countries to speak out against such ruthless US bullying tactics.

On Monday, the EU Foreign Affairs Council – made up of the EU’s High Representative and 27 EU foreign ministers – will hold a video conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss transatlantic relations. Clear, principled, and forceful messages from the EU in support of the ICC and condemnation of US attacks on the court are necessary and urgently needed.

While a number of EU member states have already decried the US’s actions, Trump’s latest move demands a strong, united, and public EU response that will be heard in Washington. The 27 EU foreign ministers should reaffirm their unwavering commitment to justice for the most serious crimes, and to the ICC as a key part of the global architecture and cooperation in the protection of human rights and rule of law.

European leadership alongside other ICC members has been essential in the fight against impunity for international crimes, including in the face of US hostility in the court’s earliest years. True, the ICC’s track record has been far from perfect, but it is still an indispensable court of last resort. There’s no clearer evidence of this than this week’s surrender to the ICC of a militia leader accused of government-backed war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, Sudan, the first suspect to face such charges before any court of law.

Justice for atrocious crimes is not a moral luxury; it is a right. EU foreign ministers should tell their US ally that they stand by victims’ quest for accountability, and they will defend the integrity of the ICC’s treaty and the independence of the court.

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