Trump approves sanctions against ‘kangaroo court’ pursuing Israel

Mike Pompeo denounced the ICC as a “kangaroo court” that has failed in its mandate to prosecute war crimes, adding that the U.S. would ban entry to ICC employees who try to prosecute Israelis.

By Associated Press

In a broadside against the International Criminal Court, President Donald Trump on Thursday authorized economic and travel sanctions against court workers investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations, including Israel, for alleged “war crimes” in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Trump’s executive order would block the financial assets of court employees and bar them and their immediate relatives from entering the United States.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, accused the court of fabricating “outlandish charges” against his country, and praised the U.S. for standing up for what he called truth and justice.

While Israel welcomed the move, there were expressions of condemnation from the United Nations and the European Union.

The Hague-based court was created in 2002 and the U.S. has never been an ICC member.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the tribunal as a “kangaroo court” that has failed its mandate to prosecute war crimes. He said that the U.S. would punish the ICC employees for any investigation or prosecution of Americans in Afghanistan and added that they could also be banned for trying to prosecute Israelis.

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“It gives us no joy to punish them,” Pompeo said. “But we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop and travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms.”

Pompeo’s comments were echoed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Attorney General William Barr and national security adviser Robert O’Brien, who spoke at a State Department announcement of the new measures. Barr announced that the U.S. would investigate possible corruption within the ICC hierarchy that he said raised suspicions that Russia and other adversaries could be interfering in the investigatory process.

Senior U.N. and EU officials spoke out against the decision.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who has pursued an anti-Israel agenda, said Trump’s order “is a matter of serious concern” and he described EU members as “steadfast supporters” of the tribunal.”

The United Nations has “taken note with concern” about reports of Trump’s order, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The executive order authorizes the blocking of assets within U.S. jurisdiction of court personnel who directly engage in investigating, harassing or detaining U.S. personnel. It authorizes visa bans on court officials and their family members involved in the investigations. Those restrictions go beyond what the State Department issued last year.

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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that despite repeated calls by the United States and its allies, the ICC has not embraced change. McEnany noted that the court continues to pursue politically motivated investigations against the U.S. and its partners, including Israel.

“We are concerned that adversary nations are manipulating the International Criminal Court by encouraging these allegations against United States personnel,” she said. “Further, we have strong reason to believe there is corruption and misconduct at the highest levels of the International Criminal Court office of the prosecutor, calling into question the integrity of its investigation into American service members.”