US President Joe Biden is planning to repeal an executive order, invoked by his predecessor Donald Trump, that placed sanctions on International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and a senior aide, Foreign Policy reported on Wednesday.
The ICC is investigating Americans for allegedly torturing suspected terrorists in Afghanistan shortly after its post-9/11 invasion of the country. Last month it opened a full war crimes probe of Israeli actions during the 2014 Gaza War, the 2018 Gaza border conflict, and the settlement enterprise.
The Biden administration has condemned the investigation, but does not want to be seen as undermining the ICC since it supports international organizations and the application of international law.
Israel has blasted the court for bias and lack of jurisdiction, and has tried to isolate it diplomatically.
Sources familiar with the matter told Foreign Policy that Biden could take the decision this week or next.
In January, a State Department spokesman announced that the Biden administration would “thoroughly review” US sanctions of International Criminal Court officials imposed over investigations into US forces in Afghanistan.
“Much as we disagree with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Israeli/Palestinian situations, the sanctions will be thoroughly reviewed as we determine our next steps,” the spokesman said in a written response.
The Trump administration accused the Hague-based tribunal last year of infringing upon US national sovereignty when it authorized the US-Afghanistan investigation.
In addition, Trump’s former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former national security advisor John Bolton slammed the Hague tribunal for going after Israel, saying there would be consequences for this as well.
Trump’s sanctions for investigating American citizens without US consent targeted court staff, including Bensouda, by freezing assets and banning travel.
Trump was the first president to use such blunt instruments against the ICC. The Bush administration mostly tried to ignore the court by cutting bilateral deals with allies, to encourage them to reject ICC extradition requests of US officials or soldiers.
The United States is not a member of the court, but under the Obama administration had tried to cooperate with the ICC on any issue where there were no apparent conflicts.
The Biden administration supports reforms “to help the court better achieve its core mission of punishing and deterring atrocity crimes,” and may cooperate with the ICC in “exceptional cases,” the State Department spokesman added.
The Biden administration must also respond by April 5 to an October lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order that invoked the sanctions, according to Foreign Policy. The executive order is due to expire in June.