U.S. Sanctions on ICC Prosecutor Constitute “Full Frontal Attack on Rule of Law,” Human Rights Attorneys Say

September 2, 2020, New York –In response to the Trump administration’s designation, announced today by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, of International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and prosecution jurisdiction division director Phakiso Mochochoko as targets of U.S. sanctions, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

Today’s designation of senior International Criminal Court staff for sanctions is an unprecedented targeting of an international prosecutor seeking to enforce international law and universally-recognized prohibitions on the commission of war crimes and torture. The ICC was established to put an end to impunity and to prevent serious crimes against civilians. 

With its action today, the United States makes clear that it stands with dictators and war criminals, and not with victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

In a blatant politicization of efforts to achieve accountability and justice for grave human rights violations, the Trump administration has further threatened penalties against those who “materially support” investigations it disfavors and threatens to interfere with lawyers’ ability to represent clients who allege being victims of the most serious crimes. 

The Executive Order establishing the framework for sanctions followed the ICC’s authorization of an investigation into international crimes – including crimes committed by U.S. actors – in relation to the war in Afghanistan, as well as the ICC prosecutor’s approval of an investigation into Israeli war crimes in Palestine, and today’s announcement follows Pompeo’s trip to Israel; the Center for Constitutional Rights represents victims in both Situations. Throughout its tenure, the Trump administration has consistently waged a campaign against international justice and the independence of the judiciary. The vague and broad scope of the Executive Order, which invokes the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the civil and criminal penalties thereunder, and Pompeo’s use of “material support” language which invokes the U.S. government’s sweeping and overbroad deployment of that concept in the “terrorism” context is intended to chill judicial proceedings and international justice.

Today’s announcement is a full frontal attack on the rule of law.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

September 2, 2020