USA: BHRC and IBAHRI call on President Biden to withdraw sanctions against ICC officials without delay

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”) and the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (“IBAHRI”) have today written to US President Joe Biden urging him to rescind Executive Order 13928 and withdraw all economic sanctions and visa restrictions placed on the ICC officials.

In the letter, BHRC and IBAHRI welcome the Department of State’s announcement on 26 January 2021 that it will “thoroughly review” the sanctions against the outgoing ICC Prosecutor, Ms Fatou Bensouda and the Director of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, Mr Mochochoko and their family members. However, as of the date of this letter the sanctions have not been revoked.

The letter states “the imposition of coercive measures against Ms Bensouda and Mr Mochochoko, and any other ICC official or person who engages with the court, constitutes a severe and improper interference with the independence of the ICC, and gravely undermines the rule of law“.

The letter continues, “The failure to rescind the Order constitutes a continuing attempt to improperly interfere with the important work of the ICC, an independent and impartial court established by law, and with the international legal order. Further, the failure to act risks gravely undermining work that is vital in the pursuit of ending impunity for the gravest crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and substantially risks undermining victims’ access to justice. The provision of legal advice, case work or even submitting amicus curiae briefs exposes individuals to the risk of being designated according to the terms of the Order. Such undue pressure upon those simply seeking to assist the work of the ICC and to provide expert support regarding the most serious crimes under international law is unacceptable.

BHRC and IBAHRI respectfully urge the President to immediately rescind this unjust and draconian Order, and to stand by the United States’ commitment to ending impunity for grave crimes and to the rule of law