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Biden to reverse Trump ICC sanctions despite key divisions

Biden to reverse Trump ICC sanctions despite continuing differences on Palestine, Afghanistan
2 min read
01 April, 2021
Despite continued disagreements on Afghanistan and Palestine, the Biden administration is reportedly planning to reverse Trump's sanctions on senior ICC officials.
Biden could soon reverse Trump's sanctions on the ICC, according to reports [Getty]
US President Joe Biden is to reverse a Trump administration executive order levying sanctions against senior officials at the International Criminal Court, Foreign Policy has reported.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and Phakiso Mochochoko, another high-level figure who assisted in the tribunal’s creation were subjected to financial and visa restrictions by Trump last year.

Although an unnamed source stressed to Foreign Policy that an official decision is yet to revealed, insiders told the magazine the reversal could be put into action next or even this week.

The Trump administration sanctions came about because the ICC launched an inquiry into alleged war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan.

While the inquiry's scope includes the US military, it also covers the activities of other international forces, plus those of the Taliban and Afghan government forces.

Earlier this year, over 80 organisations, including NGOs religious associations, and other institutions signed a letter condemning the US sanctions.

The letter called them “an unprecedented attack on the court’s mandate to deliver justice and the rule of law globally.”

The Trump administration was likewise angered at attempts by the tribunal to investigate Israel over potential crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 

In March, the ICC sent the Israeli government a letter detailing the accusations against it and gave it a month to argue for a deferral by demonstrating it had launched an internal investigation.

With just over a week to go, The Jerusalem Post says that Israel has yet to agree its response.

The Palestinian Authority received similar correspondence regarding investigations of potential Palestinian violations of international law as part of the same probe.

Read more: Will joining the ICC finally lead to justice? 

Ending sanctions against ICC officials would be a significant softening of Washington’s tone surrounding the tribunal.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration, like its predecessor, still rejects the ICC’s jurisdiction over US and Israeli activities in Afghanistan and Palestine.

It only accepts the Hague-based court’s jurisdiction when the countries being investigated have recognised it, or when the tribunal is told to intervene by the United Nations Security Council.

Neither the United States nor Israel has recognised the court by ratifying the Rome Statute.

However, the ICC does not deem recognition necessary, maintaining that it just needs approval from the country where the alleged atrocities have occurred.

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