Pompeo bans top prosecutor investigating war crimes from entering US


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is punishing a war crimes investigator — for daring to investigate war crimes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has revoked the visa for the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor in what appears to be retribution for her plans to investigate potential war crimes by the U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

Fatou Bensouda, who asked the ICC in 2017 to launch an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, confirmed in a statement that the U.S. government had revoked her visa for entry into the United States.

The move comes less than a month after Pompeo announced that war crimes investigators working for the ICC would be banned from entering the U.S. if they tried to investigate U.S. or allied personnel.

"If you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan you should not assume that you still have, or will get, a visa or that you will permitted to enter the United States," Pompeo said.

Human rights experts at the United Nations said revoking Bensouda's visa was an "improper interference" in the work of the ICC, which is the only body in the world with the power to investigate and prosecute individuals for international crimes including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. 

In a 2016 report, the ICC declared that there is a "reasonable basis to believe" that the U.S. and its allies committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

The report, which was authored by Bensouda, alleged that from 2002 to 2014, American forces and CIA officers subjected at least 88 detainees to techniques that constituted war crimes, including "torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape."

Most of the alleged abuses took place under the George W. Bush administration, in 2003 and 2004 in Afghanistan and at CIA black sites in Europe.

Bensouda requested authorization in November 2017 to open an investigation into any alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, including those committed by the Taliban, Afghan government forces, and international forces, including U.S. troops.

The probe is also expected to scrutinize the CIA's actions at detention centers in Afghanistan. Thus far, the ICC has not yet decided whether it will launch a formal investigation into the matter.

The Trump administration has preemptively threatened to sanction the ICC and even prosecute its officials if the court decides to go forward with an investigation into alleged war crimes by U.S. military and intelligence officers, or if it pursues any investigation into Israel or other U.S. allies.

In September, Trump national security adviser John Bolton launched into a tirade against the ICC, calling it "illegitimate" and denouncing the inquiry into potential war crimes in Afghanistan as an "utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation."

Pompeo's decision to revoke the visa of the ICC's chief prosecutor is the latest in a series of shameful foreign policy moves by the Trump administration.

Last month, Pompeo oversaw the expansion of the global gag rule, a cruel anti-choice law that will hurt and kill countless girls and women around the world. Less than two weeks before that, the State Department instituted a religious litmus test for reporters, refusing to allow those not affiliated with "faith-based media" to take part in a phone call with Pompeo.

And now, Pompeo is punishing a war crimes investigator for daring to ... investigate war crimes.

Whether at home or abroad, the Trump administration clearly isn't interested in accountability, even for the most heinous crimes — which only makes the case for the ICC's investigation that much stronger.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.