The following is a public letter calling on the United States to drop its sanctions against staff of the International Criminal Court (ICC). I am proud and happy to have signed the letter alongside luminaries and leaders in the field of international justice and human rights. For more analysis, see here.
Non-Governmental Organizations, Faith-Based Groups, Legal Professionals, Experts, and Former Government Officials Unequivocally Oppose U.S. Sanctions Against the International Criminal Court
The undersigned organizations and individuals write to express grave concerns and unequivocally oppose the Trump administration’s use of the sanctions authority of the United States to attack the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent judicial institution dedicated to combatting impunity for the gravest crimes known to humanity.
Many of the undersigned spoke out against steps in this direction taken earlier this year by the U.S. administration. We now issue this further statement because it is uniquely dangerous, extreme, and unprecedented to utilize a mechanism designed to penalize criminals, their aiders, and abettors, against an independent judicial institution. Asset freezes and entry restrictions are tools intended to combat individuals and entities constituting a threat to U.S. national security. By applying these measures to a court that 123 countries – and on two occasions, the United Nations Security Council – have entrusted with providing accountability for atrocity crimes, the United States has brought upon itself the stigma of siding with impunity over justice. The administration’s actions jeopardize the ability of desperate victims to access justice, weaken the credibility underpinning the use of sanction tools in other contexts, and put the United States at odds with its closest allies.
The ICC represents and constitutes part of a global system of international justice of which the United States was a chief architect at Nuremberg and beyond. Today, the ICC, alongside other tribunals, regional mechanisms, and national courts, is carrying forward these efforts through investigations and prosecutions that could help realize justice for atrocity victims from Sudan to Myanmar. As a court of last resort, the ICC only can intervene when and where a State has demonstrated unwillingness or inability to hold its nationals to account for crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction. The ICC therefore provides an essential backstop for victims who have no other recourse to justice. The use of sanctions has the potential for wide-reaching impact against this institution dedicated to advancing justice for victims.
At an historical moment when the global rule of law is under attack from multiple fronts, institutions like the International Criminal Court are needed more than ever to advance human rights protections and the universal goal of preventing future atrocities. Instead, these sanctions send a signal that could embolden authoritarian regimes and others with reason to fear accountability who seek to evade justice. It is essential that the United States answer any allegation of wrongdoing in a manner that does not betray the cause of global justice, abandon international cooperation, or compromise support for human dignity and rights.
As human rights, legal, and faith-based organizations, as well as individuals who have dedicated their careers to these causes, we call upon the U.S. government to rescind the Executive Order authorizing sanctions and return to constructive engagement with the ICC. We urge other governments, Members of Congress, and advocates for victims everywhere to raise their voices to oppose these measures. We invite allies of justice to join us in standing against these destructive measures/attacks.