US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced on Friday that US President Joe Biden revoked Trump-era Executive Order 13928 on "Blocking Property of Certain Person Associated with the International Criminal Court (ICC)."
As a result, the US government lifted previously imposed economic sanctions against ICC Prosecutor Bensouda and her assistant Mochochoko, as well as "visa restrictions in connection with the Court," Blinken detailed.
The ICC officials were originally sanctioned by the State Department in September 2020, after former US President Donald Trump declared the Court's investigation into alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan posed a national security threat.
"These actions on the part of the ICC, in turn, threaten to infringe upon the sovereignty of the United States and impede the critical national security and foreign policy work of United States Government and allied officials, and thereby threaten the national security and foreign policy of the United States," Trump claimed in his June 2020 executive order.
Blinken emphasized Friday that the State Department under the Biden administration continues "to disagree strongly with the ICC's actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations."
"We maintain our longstanding objection to the Court's efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel," he said. "We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions."
We believe a more effective approach to reform includes engagement to help the ICC achieve its core mission of accountability for atrocity crimes.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) April 2, 2021
The ICC has yet to issue a public response to the US move, but the Court did immediately condemn Washington's economic sanctions back in September 2020.
"These coercive acts, directed at an international judicial institution and its civil servants, are unprecedented and constitute serious attacks against the Court, the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, and the rule of law more generally," the ICC stated.
The ICC drew worldwide attention in early March this year after Bensouda announced that the court would investigate crimes supposedly perpetrated by the Israel Defense Forces and other armed groups across Palestine since June 13, 2014. The announcement was met with praise by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas alike, while prompting outrage in Israel, with the country's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, decrying it as "undiluted antisemitism."
In particular, the ICC announcement stated that the court's “territorial jurisdiction in the situation in Palestine [….] extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem”. Bensoud also added that there is “a reasonable basis” to believe that war crimes “have been or are being committed in the West Bank” by Israel and the militant group Hamas, requesting an investigation.
The inquiry will also examine actions of Palestine's Hamas movement, which fired rockets into Israel during the 2014 Gaza war, Bensouda said.