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UN and Berlin criticize US threats against the criminal court

By Reuters Staff

Berlin / Geneva (Reuters) - The German government and the UN have sharply criticized the US threats against the International Criminal Court.

A spokeswoman for the State Department said in Berlin on Friday that the announcement by the United States was noted with great concern that it would impose further visa restrictions and additional economic sanctions against employees of the court in certain cases. The UN human rights bureau said it regretted that US President Donald Trump had given permission for sanctions against employees of the institution. The independence of the International Criminal Court (ICC) must be preserved.

The USA never recognized the ICC that was established in The Hague in 2002. The escalation is in response to the fact that its chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, was given permission in March to investigate war crimes that may have been committed in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014. That could have been directed not only against the radical Islamic Taliban and the Afghan government, but also against US soldiers or the CIA.

Trump had issued a decree authorizing proceedings against members of the ICC who deal with alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan. This allows their assets to be frozen in the USA and entry denied. The measures could also be extended to the family members of the employees.

The ICC itself had also rejected the threat. This is the continuation of a series of unprecedented US attacks on the court, it said. "These attacks represent an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to encroach on the rule of law and the court's proceedings." Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok tweeted that he was very concerned about the US stance. His country supports the ICC.

Germany is one of the determined supporters of the court, emphasized the spokeswoman for the Federal Foreign Office. "We have full confidence in his work." The court is an “indispensable institution in the fight against impunity for international crimes” and is needed today more than ever. "We reject any pressure on the independent court, its staff and those who work with it."