US must end attacks on International Criminal Court and staff

Ongoing attacks by United States officials on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its staff amount to a full-frontal assault on international justice and the rule of law, said the ICJ, today.

On 2 September 2020, the US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, describing the ICC as a “thoroughly broken and corrupted institution,” indicated that the US would place on sanctions on ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, and the ICC’s Head of Jurisdiction, Complementary, and Cooperation Division, Phakiso Mochochoko, “for having materially assisted Prosecutor Bensouda” pursuant to the President’s 11 June 2020 Executive Order.

“The US must end these despicable and destabilizing attempts to interfere with the independence of the ICC and the functioning of its mandate to pursue justice for victims of the most serious crimes under international law,” said Kingsley Abbott, Coordinator of the ICJ’s Global Accountability Initiative. 

“It is imperative that the 123 countries that are States Parties to the Rome Statute continue to work in solidarity to defend the Court and show the world that even individuals from a global superpower are subject to the rule of law.”

“Retaliating against individual ICC staff for merely working to fulfill the mandate of the Court sets a dangerous precedent and must be condemned specifically in the strongest possible terms,” added Abbott.


On 21 September 2018, the ICJ, together with ten other organisations, 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.

On 22 March 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, and the  Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Diego García-Sayán, 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.

On 11 June 2020, the ICC issued a statement expressing “profound regret at the announcement of further threats and coercive actions, including financial measures, against the Court and its officials, made earlier today by the Government of the United States.” The Court said the US action “represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice.”

On 18 June 2020, the ICJ urged the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures to act in response to steps taken by the United States against staff of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and their families.

On 25 June 2020, UN Human Rights Special Procedures experts issued a statement condemning US attacks on the ICC and its staff saying they “have been in contact with the US authorities on the issues.”

On 2 September 2020, the ICC issued a statement condemning the economic sanctions imposed on the Prosecutor and Phakiso Mochochoko, saying that the attacks “are unprecedented and constitute serious attacks against the Court, the Rome Statute system of international criminal justice, and the rule of law more generally.”


Kingsley Abbott, Coordinator of the ICJ’s Global Accountability Initiative, t: +66 94 470 1345; e:

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