In a bizzare move, the United States today branded Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) a terrorist and narcotics smuggler.
The move was made, all in the name of imposing sanctions on the woman for probing atrocious human rights violations by American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the sanctions on Wednesday.
He also put on the list, Phakiso Mochochoko, the head of the ICC’s jurisdiction division.
In line with the sanction, the US Treasury issued a statement saying Bensouda and Mochochoko had been deemed “specially designated nationals”, grouping them alongside terrorists and narcotics traffickers.
The U.S. also blocked their assets and prohibited US citizens from having any dealings with them.
The court said it would respond to the sanctioning of Bensouda and Mochochoko later today.
Richard Dicker, the international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said the announcement “marks a stunning perversion of US sanctions, devised to penalize rights abusers and kleptocrats, to persecute those tasked with prosecuting international crimes”.
“The Trump administration has twisted these sanctions to obstruct justice, not only for certain war crimes victims, but for atrocity victims anywhere looking to the international criminal court for justice,” Dicker said.
The decision to escalate its campaign against the ICC is one of a series of radical steps the Trump administration has taken on foreign policy that have left it isolated on the world stage.
This year, the Trump administration imposed economic sanctions on ICC employees involved in investigating U.S. troops for potential war crimes in Afghanistan.
The ICC was established in 2002 by the international community to prosecute war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in places where perpetrators might not otherwise face justice.
The U.S. has declined to join.
Pompeo said that since the U.S. was not part of the ICC, the investigations were “illegitimate.”
*With reports by Reuters/NAN