This includes a freeze on assets held in the US and targets prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the court’s head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the action, which builds on an executive order issued by President Trump against court officials in June, is part of the administration’s retaliation against the tribunal for investigations into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.
Pompeo had earlier imposed a travel ban on Bensouda and other tribunal employees. In March 2019, he ordered the denial of visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes and abuses by US forces in Afghanistan.
According to the ICC, Bensouda plans to investigate methods that the US military and CIA have used to interrogate detainees since 2003. This includes “the war crimes of torture and cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and other forms of sexual violence pursuant to a policy approved by US authorities.”
This illustrates just how the US disregards victims of war crimes and atrocities, interferes with the rule of law, and obstructs justice for those looking to the court for international justice. The blacklisting shows the brutal reality of what American exceptionalism can do to make sure the truth of what was done under the pretext of war on terror would never see the light of day.
As with so much in the age of Trump, the administration sees no reason to comply with international anti-torture treaties, or take corrective steps in response to its ongoing investigations.
For the Trump administration’s senior officials, reports and investigations by the ICC and others are not legally binding, and Washington doesn’t need to match its rhetoric with actions, or support full accountability for alleged torture and other crimes. The Guantanamo Bay prison revealed that the US wouldn’t investigate alleged cases of unlawful detention, torture and ill treatment, or prosecute perpetrators.
It’s really important to note that the CIA Torture Report in 2015 complied by The Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program did establish that the US has a long way to go to earn its claimed position in the world as a leader on human rights since it is standing exactly to the opposite.
The report showed the CIA wouldn’t relinquish its “Black Sites” and detention interrogation program, even if its former director Michael Hayden confirmed that the agency tortured terror suspects in Iraq and Afghanistan – and covered it up by calling it enhanced interrogation techniques and medical procedures.
Former president George W. Bush’s book also said that he did know about the interrogation tactics and abuses and that he personally approved them. With what the Trump administration’s senior officials have done to the ICC so far, it effectively remains a policy option rather than a criminal offense in Washington, and with no form of accountability whatsoever.
Judging from the above, it’s clear that the US knows it will be lambasted if it decides to help the ICC conduct a comprehensive and independent criminal investigation into its overseas conflicts, including into the role of the architects of its forever wars and the CIA interrogation tactics in Iraq (Abu Ghraib), Afghanistan (Bagram), and Cuba (Guantanamo Bay).
Just like its predecessors, the Trump administration doesn’t want to be surprised. So, it won’t turn the page on the alleged war crimes and torture era to make sure it never happens again, even if it effectively undermines America’s credibility and runs that country into the ground. The administration won’t prosecute the offenders and those who ordered torture and other atrocities, either: “It keeps America safe”. “We need these interrogation tactics in order to save American lives”.
In this way, the Trump administration has made itself a central part of a disturbing and riven past that its dirty fight against the ICC has made part of its present. In some ways, it’s far more disturbing. The administration has also undermined its own political credibility by spewing anti-ICC rhetoric and by actively hindering its professional investigations.
In an America that’s lost its appetite for international treaties and laws, this was all expected. It’s a waste of time to expect a policy reversal.
By suppressing the ICC and attacking international justice, Washington, which has never ratified the Rome Statute that created the court, did illustrate yet again that it is unwilling to put ethics to work and to help expose an incredible historical fact about the violations of domestic and international laws that its forces committed in its bogus war on terror.