ICJ urges independent UN experts to take action in response to US Executive Order targeting ICC staff

The ICJ has urged United Nations Special Procedures to act in response to recent steps taken by the United States against staff of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their families.

On 11 June 2020, the US President signed an Executive Order declaring a national emergency and authorizing the targeting and sanction of individual staff of the ICC engaged in efforts to investigate US and allied personnel, including as part of the Prosecutor’s investigation of the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

“These actions constitute a direct and reprehensible attack on the independence and impartiality of the International Criminal Court in an effort to subvert its important mandate, which includes providing justice to victims of the most serious crimes in international law,” said Kingsley Abbott, Coordinator of the ICJ’s Global Accountability Initiative. 

“By referring the situation to the UN Experts, we hope they will issue a formal communication of concern and seek to persuade US authorities to end their ongoing attacks against the ICC and its staff.”

The ICJ addressed its letter to Ms Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr Fabian Salvioli, and Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, urging them to:

  1. issue a public statement condemning these actions and reaffirming the importance of the ICC and its staff being able to fulfil the Court’s mandate free from interference; and
  2. send a communication to the United States urging it to reverse or revoke all orders, laws, policies or practices that interfere in or undermine the work of the ICC and its staff and refrain from taking steps or making comments in the future which may amount to interference in the independence and impartiality of the Court.


On the same day the Executive Order was signed, US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, spoke to the media at a joint press conference.

Calling the ICC a “kangaroo court”, he announced that “the Trump Administration is taking the following actions”:

  1. authorizing the imposition of economic sanctions against ICC officials directly engaged in the ICC efforts to investigate U.S. personnel or allied personnel against that allied state’s consent, and against others who materially support such officials’ activities; and
  2. expanding visa restrictions for officials directly engaged in those same investigations including to their family members.

The UN Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts who hold specific country-focussed or thematic mandates.

They carry out a number of functions including reporting to and engaging in dialogue with States and civil society at the Human Rights Council, conducting country visits, engaging in advocacy, and acting on individual cases and concerns of a broader nature by sending communications to States and others in which they bring alleged violations to their attention.

On 21 September 2018, together with ten other organisations, the ICJ sent a joint letter to UN Special Procedures regarding threats made by the then US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, against the ICC and its staff in September 2018.

On 22 March 2019, UN experts Mr Michel Forst, then Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Mr Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, issued a press release expressing concern at Bolton’s remarks, reaffirming the important mandate of the ICC and saying they were in contact with the US authorities on the issue.


Kingsley Abbott, Coordinator of the ICJ’s Global Accountability Initiative, t: +66 94 470 1345; e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org

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