Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo last year imposed sanctions and refused visas for the outgoing prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, after she launched an investigation into alleged war crimes by US military personnel in Afghanistan.

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), poses for pictures at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, on January 26, 2017.
Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), poses for pictures at the European Council in Brussels, Belgium, on January 26, 2017. (Reuters Archive)

The United States has lifted sanctions on International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that drew international criticism after they were imposed by the administration of former president Donald Trump.

The move, announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, lifts the sanctions imposed on Bensouda over her investigation into whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

It also removes Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the ICC's Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, from the Specially Designated Nationals list.

READ MORE: US sanctions ICC prosecutor over Afghanistan 'war crimes' investigation

ICC hails 'new phase' with US

The ICC welcomed the Biden administration's move, saying it signalled a new era of cooperation with Washington.

"I trust this decision signals the start of a new phase of our common undertaking to fight against impunity" for war crimes, Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi, the head of the Association of States Parties to the ICC, said in a statement.

'Inappropriate and ineffective'

In a statement, Blinken said the State Department had also terminated a separate 2019 policy on visa restrictions on certain ICC personnel and added: "These decisions reflect our assessment that the measures adopted were inappropriate and ineffective."

Blinken said Washington was taking the step even though it continued "to disagree strongly with the ICC's actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations" and to object to ICC "efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel."

"We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions," his statement said.

Blinken said Washington was encouraged that a broad range of reforms were being considered to help the ICC "prioritize its resources and to achieve its core mission of serving as a court of last resort in punishing and deterring atrocity crimes."

READ MORE: ICC clears way for probe in Israeli occupied Palestinian territories

Attack on international justice

The Trump administration last year accused the Hague-based ICC of infringing on US national sovereignty when it authorised an investigation into war crimes committed by Afghan forces, the Taliban or US troops.

It targeted court staff, including Bensouda, in September with asset freezes and travel bans for investigating American citizens without US consent. The United States is not a member of the court.

The ICC said the sanctions were an attack on international justice and the rule of law.

Then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also opposed an investigation launched in 2019 into alleged war crimes in the Palestinian Territories, including by Israeli forces. 

READ MORE: The ICC's Israel investigation: A series of continuous crimes

Source: TRTWorld and agencies