The United States announced on Friday it would deny visas to members of the International Criminal Court involved in investigating alleged was crmes from USA troops in Afghanistan or in other countries.
Bolton questioned the legitimacy of The Hague-based court, its mission and mandate, warned that the United States would thwart any attempt by its prosecutors to open investigations into Americans for alleged war crimes and other abuses in conflicts in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
In doing so, he made good on an earlier threat by the Trump administration to ban ICC judges and prosecutors from entering the United States and sanction funds they have there if the court launched a probe of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by law could not specifically name individuals who will be denied visa entry, but he said other restrictions could be added if the ICC persists in the investigation that began in 2017.
The move, Pompeo confirmed to reporters Friday morning, is a direct response to ongoing efforts by the ICC to probe allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity tied to the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan.
Friday's actions by the State Department followed a September 2018 threat from National Security Adviser John Bolton that the USA would "use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court". Major powers, including the United States, China and Russian Federation, are not members.
The court, which sits in The Hague, has already responded that it was an independent and impartial institution and would continue to do its work "undeterred" by Washington's actions.
"The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court", Bolton said. "We're prepared to take additional steps, including economic sanctions, if the ICC does not change its course".
A State Department official said the United States would allow court officials to travel for meetings to the United Nations headquarters in NY. Pompeo said Friday that more measures may come.
The International Criminal Court is supported by 123 nations, including Switzerland.
"The court is an independent and impartial judicial institution crucial for ensuring accountability for the gravest crimes under worldwide law", the statement said.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents three people before the ICC who say they were tortured in Afghanistan, called the decision "misguided and dangerous" and "an unprecedented attempt to skirt worldwide accountability for well-documented war crimes that haunt our clients to this day".
Supporters of the court slammed Pompeo's announcement on Friday.
A director at Human Rights Watch, Andrea Prasow, described the announcement as a "thuggish attempt to penalize investigators" at the court. "Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked".
It said that all states were obliged to prosecute and punish the most serious crimes.
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