Biden removes sanctions Trump had applied to the ICC

President Joe Biden on Friday lifted the sanctions that Donald Trump had imposed on two senior officials of the International Criminal Court, undoing one of the most aggressive moves of the past administration against international institutions and officials.

Miamimundo / By AP

Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted in a statement that the United States still strongly disagrees with some actions by the court, which is a permanent body based in The Hague in the Netherlands charged with handling genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The United States is not one of the 120 member countries of the court.

“We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed” through diplomacy “rather than through the imposition of sanctions,” Blinken wrote.

The removal of the sanctions was the latest sign that the Biden administration intends to return to the multilateral fold.

The Trump administration had unapologetically removed the United States from numerous international institutions and agreements and harshly criticized others, including the ICC, calling them flawed and working against American interests.

Since Biden took office, his administration has rejoined the World Health Organization, re-engaged with the UN Human Rights Council, reverted to the Paris climate accord, and began talks on Friday aimed at returning to the United Nations. nuclear deal with Iran.

Biden and the sanctions towards the ICC

Human rights groups applauded Biden on Friday for overturning Trump’s sanctions (Amnesty International called them an “act of vandalism” against international justice), but called for Biden to go further, supporting the court’s work and converting to the United States in a member country.

The US sanctions had targeted the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and the court’s head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko, for pursuing investigations into the United States and its allies, particularly Israel, for alleged war crimes.

Two sets of sanctions were imposed, the first was a travel ban to Bensouda in March 2019, and then, 18 months later, a freeze on any assets she and Mochochoko may have in the United States or American jurisdictions.

The second round also made giving the couple “material support” a potentially punishable offense.

When former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed the financial sanctions in September 2020, he attacked the court as “a completely broken and corrupt institution” and said that “we will not tolerate his illegitimate attempts to bring Americans under his jurisdiction.”