France calls on US to withdraw sanctions on world court

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PARIS (AP) — France called on the United States on Thursday to withdraw sanctions levelled on top officials of the International Criminal Court, saying they are a “grave attack” on the court and put into question the independence of justice.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced sanctions Wednesday against the chief prosecutor of the court, based in The Hague, and a top aide, for investigations into the United States and its allies. The sanctions include a freeze on assets held in the U.S. or subject to U.S. law and target prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and the court’s head of jurisdiction, Phakiso Mochochoko.

The court is, notably, investigating allegations of torture and other crimes by Americans in Afghanistan.

The United States has never been party to the court, and Pompeo said the U.S. would not tolerate “its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the sanctions are “a grave attack against the court … and beyond that a questioning of multi-lateralism and the independence of the judiciary. France calls on the United States to withdraw the announced measures.”

Josep Borrell, vice president of the European Union’s External Action Service, called the U.S. sanctions “unacceptable” and “unprecedented.”

“The International Criminal Court (ICC) plays an essential role in delivering justice to the victims of some of world’s most horrific crimes. Its independence and impartiality are crucial characteristics of the Court’s work, which are fundamental for the legitimacy of its judgements,” Borrell said in a statement urging the U.S. to reverse course.

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