On March 17, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated from the podium of the State Department Press Room that two explicitly named individuals in the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court would face possible sanctions in connection with the Prosecutor’s investigation of the Afghanistan situation, an investigation approved by the Appeals Chamber of the Court on March 5, 2020.  Set forth below is a statement by Americans who in the past worked to secure the investigation and prosecution of atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes):

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened two staffers of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and their families, with punitive sanctions in connection with the Court-approved investigation by the Prosecutor of the Afghanistan situation.  This act of raw intimidation of the Prosecutor’s staff members is reckless and shocking in its display of fear rather than strength.  The International Criminal Court has an independent and impartial mandate.  Secretary Pompeo’s crude threats against these two staffers debase America’s commitment to the rule of law. It can only undermine the confidence of those around the world who look to the United States for leadership and inspiration to protect the victims of the world’s worst atrocities.

There are any number of things that the U.S. Government could pursue as a better course of action.  It could, for example, invoke its right, as a non-party State, under Article 18 of the Rome Statute and notify the Prosecutor that the United States “is investigating or has investigated its nationals or others within its jurisdiction with respect to criminal acts which may constitute crimes” in the Afghanistan situation, thus requiring the Prosecutor to stand down for at least six months on any further investigation of U.S. actions.  Such an act of confidence by Secretary Pompeo would far better protect U.S. interests than the kind of threat issued yesterday.

Signed on March 18, 2020, by:

Todd Buchwald (U.S. Ambassador and Special Coordinator for Global Criminal Justice, 2015-2017)

David Michael Crane (Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, 2002-2005)

Benjamin Ferencz (Chief Prosecutor, U.S. Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, 1947-1948)

Stephen J. Rapp (U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice, 2009-2015)

David Scheffer (U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, 1997-2001)

Clint Williamson (U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, 2006-2009)

Photo credit: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a press conference at the State Department in Washington DC, on March 17, 2020 (Nicholas Kamm/AFP – Getty Images)