US & World

Trump Greenlights Sanctions Against International Criminal Court Investigators

A trio of judges oversee a trial in 2017, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
A trio of judges oversee a trial in 2017, at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Evert Elzinga/AFP via Getty Images

Two months after the International Criminal Court greenlit an investigation into potential war crimes by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is pushing back.

President Trump has imposed economic sanctions against court officials "directly engaged with any effort to investigate or prosecute United States personnel without the consent of the United States."

The executive order released Thursday also expands visa restrictions against court officials and their families.

Trump said the ICC investigation threatens to subvert U.S. sovereignty and subject U.S. officials and their allies "to harassment, abuse, and possible arrest" — and "thereby threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

Washington has long been at loggerheads with the ICC, which was established in 2002 without the membership of the U.S. The George W. Bush administration withdrew from the treaty that established the court just weeks before it took effect, explaining the decision in similar terms to those used in Trump's order Thursday: U.S. officials were concerned at the prospect of a body outside the country's borders having any form of jurisdiction over its citizens.

Yet even for this fractious relationship, an ICC decision earlier this year represented "a kind of crossing of the Rubicon," Indiana University associate professor David Bosco told NPR at the time.

That's because the investigation authorized by the ICC, the world's only standing war crimes tribunal, may result in indictments against U.S. troops.

ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who pushed for the probe, has said the investigation will focus on alleged crimes by not only the Taliban and other armed groups, but also Afghan forces, U.S. forces and the CIA.

NPR's Michele Kelemen contributed to this report.

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