US revokes ICC prosecutor's entry visa over Afghanistan probe

US authorities cancel Fatou Bensouda's visa in response to her inquiry into possible war crimes by US forces and allies.

    Bensouda said she is 'fully committed' to prosecutor's mandate and will continue 'undeterred' [File: Abdullah Asiran/Anadolu]
    Bensouda said she is 'fully committed' to prosecutor's mandate and will continue 'undeterred' [File: Abdullah Asiran/Anadolu]

    The United States has revoked the entry visa of Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in response to her inquiry into possible war crimes by US forces in Afghanistan, her office said.

    "We can confirm that the US authorities have revoked the prosecutor's visa for entry into the US," Bensouda's office told Reuters news agency in an email.

    It said it understood the move should not affect Bensouda's travel to the US to meet her United Nations obligations.

    The Netherlands-based ICC is not a UN court, but Bensouda travels regularly to brief the UN Security Council on cases referred to The Hague by the UN body.

    Bensouda has been investigating alleged war crimes by all parties in the conflict in Afghanistan since November 2017, including the possible role of US personnel in relation to the detention of suspects.

    ICC judges are still reviewing materials and have not yet handed down a decision on whether to open a formal investigation in Afghanistan.

    A State Department spokesman said members of international organisations planning official travel to the UN could apply for diplomatic visas.

    "We recommend that applicants apply as early as possible to maximize the chances of being found eligible," the spokesman said.

    The US is not a member of the ICC, along with other major powers including Russia and China.

    The office of the prosecutor said on Thursday that Bensouda would exercise her duties "without fear or favour".

    Bensouda said in a meeting with reporters earlier this week that she and her office remain "fully committed" to their mandate.

    "[We] will continue to honour our legal duty undeterred," Bensouda said on Tuesday.

    Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US would revoke or deny visas to ICC personnel seeking to investigate possible war crimes by US forces or allies in Afghanistan.

    190315191933901

    "The ICC is attacking America's rule of law," Pompeo told reporters in March.

    "I'm announcing a policy of US visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigation of US personnel.

    "We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation," he said.

    UN human rights experts called the reaction "improper interference" in the work of the world's permanent war crimes court. It also drew criticism from within the European Union.

    At the time, the Hague-based court, the first global tribunal for war crimes, issued a statement saying it would continue to operate "undeterred" by the US action.

    The ICC is a court of last resort with 122 member states, including the entire EU. Established in 2002, it acts only when countries within its jurisdiction are found to be unable or unwilling to seriously investigate war crimes, genocide or other serious atrocities.

    Earlier this month, ICC President Chile Eboe-Osuji called on the US leadership to support the court and to "join their closest allies and friends at the Rome Statute table".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies