US President Donald Trump has escalated hostilities against the International Criminal Court (ICC) by authorising new sanctions against prosecutors and officials of the intergovernmental organisation.
Trump signed an executive order to block ICC officials directly involved in investigating American troops and intelligence officials and those of allied nations.
In addition to the investigation of possible war crimes in Afghanistan involving US troops, the ICC, based in the Hague, Netherlands, has also launched a probe into Israeli war crimes, including crimes against humanity.
Earlier this month, US Secretary Mike Pompeo doubled down on a previous promise to counter the ICC probe against Washington and Tel Aviv. "I think that the ICC and the world will see that we are determined to prevent having Americans and our friends and allies in Israel and elsewhere hauled in by this corrupt ICC," he told a podcast hosted by the right-wing American Enterprise Institute think tank.
Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also been scathing in his condemnation of the ICC denouncing the court of fabricating "outlandish charges" against his country, and praised the US for standing up for what he called truth and justice.
The probe into allegations of crimes against humanity committed by American service members and intelligence officers, include torture and rape by US forces in Afghanistan and at CIA interrogation facilities abroad, during the near two-decade campaign against the Taliban.
As for Israel, the Zionist state will be investigated for war crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank, a prospect that has been met with threats and intimidation from Tel Aviv. The Israelis also resorted to the usual tactic of trying to discredit people who shed light on its criminal behaviour by accusing the ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of being an anti-Semite.
President Trump is reported in the New York Times has having ordered the new penalties on the ICC on Wednesday and dispatching four of his most senior advisers to announce them yesterday as a rebuke to what the administration described as an affront to American sovereignty.
The ICC responded to the sanctions in a statement saying that it was "an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the court's judicial proceedings." The statement described the move as an attempt to undermine the courts impartiality arguing that "an attack on the I.C.C. also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the court represents the last hope for justice."
Last year, Pompeo revoked the visa of Bensouda after the chief prosecutor signalled her intent to pursue the courts probe into US war crimes. He also vowed to revoke visas for other officials at the court involved in investigating American citizens.