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US slaps visa ban on ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, Gambian Fatou Bensouda has been hit by a visa ban by the United States government over her office’s decision to probe alleged war crimes by Americans.

Fatou Bensouda
Fatou Bensouda

She 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, a move that United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cautioned last month could lead to sanctions on ICC officials.

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

The ICC is a court of last resort with 122 member states. 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.

Pompeo said in mid-March: “I am announcing a policy on those individuals directly responsible for any ICC investigations of US personnel. This includes persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation.”

Investigations usually target nationals of countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute that set up the court which tries international crimes. The US is not a signatory to the statute.

Bensouda who has been prosecutor since 2012, becomes the first official to be targeted by the sanction. Her office, however, insists that as an independent impartial body, their work will proceed.

The statement attributed to her office reads as follows: “We can confirm that the US authorities have revoked the Prosecutor’s visa for entry into the US. It is our understanding that should not have an impact on the Prosecutor’s travel to the US to meet her obligations to the UN, including regular briefings before the UN Security Council.

“The Office of the Prosecutor has an independent and impartial mandate under the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Prosecutor and her Office will continue to undertake that statutory duty with utmost commitment and professionalism, without fear or favour.”

Her office has routinely been accused of targeting Africans, a claim it has repeatedly rejected. Recent cases of acquittals have also cast a bad light on their work.

Under her reign, Burundi became the first country in history to successfully exit the ICC. The Gambia and South Africa had previously applied same but have since withdrawn their applications. Reuters/Africa News.