The European Union on Saturday welcomed the United States’ lifting of sanctions imposed by former leader Donald Trump on the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor.
Trump’s top diplomat hit Fatou Bensouda and another senior court official with financial sanctions and visa bans last year after the prosecutor launched an investigation into alleged war crimes by US military personnel in Afghanistan.
New President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday announced it was repealing the measures as it seeks a more cooperative approach on a dispute that has alienated allies.
“This important step underlines the US’s commitment to the international rules-based system,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“The ICC plays an important role in delivering justice to the victims of some of the world’s most horrific crimes. Protecting the impartiality and judicial independence of the ICC is paramount to its effectiveness and proper functioning.”
Borrell said the EU was “unwavering in its support” of the tribunal and the “universality” of the Rome Statute that founded the court.
“We will stand together with all partners to defend the court against attempts aimed at obstructing the course of justice and undermining the international system of criminal justice,” he said.
The US remains out of the Rome Statute with little prospect of it joining.
Washington says it is encouraged by reforms taking place at the tribunal, but Biden’s administration continues to oppose the Afghan probe, as well as a separate investigation into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian territories by US ally Israel.
Gambian-born Bensouda is leaving her job in June and will be replaced by British human rights lawyer Karim Khan, who now can start his work without the burden of looming sanctions.