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#Trump orders sanctions to halt international probe of US troops

#Trump orders sanctions to halt international probe of US troops

June 11, 2020 | 9:35am

President Trump on Thursday issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against anyone who takes part in an International Criminal Court investigation of Americans or US allies — as aides say Russia may be behind a probe of the War in Afghanistan.

The international court’s appeals chamber in March authorized an investigation of possible Afghanistan war crimes, rebuffing previous US warnings, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last year threatening visa bans on participants.

The sweeping new order authorizes Pompeo to order crippling economic penalties against ICC workers and anyone who helps with the investigation, in addition to travel restrictions.

“There is Russian influence here,” a senior administration official told a small group of reporters on Thursday, adding that further information likely will be made public in “coming days.”

“We are concerned that Russia may be manipulating the ICC by encouraging these allegations against US personnel,” the official said.

The investigation of the War in Afghanistan is one of 13 currently being pursued by the Netherlands-based court. It was requested by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, a citizen of The Gambia.

“The ICC investigation withe respect to Afghanistan is being pushed forward by an organization of dubious integrity, and may be the target of corrupt, malign influenced by Russia and others,” the senior US official said. “Further, we have reason to believe there’s corruption and misconduct at the highest levels of the ICC’s office of prosecutor, calling into question the integrity of this investigation into American personnel.”

Although unloaded to deter investigation of US troops in Afghanistan, the order ultimately may protect other US allies that participated in the Afghanistan War, or Israel.

“The ICC in recent months has made moves toward opening investigations of Israel, with respect to the situation with the Palestinians,” the official said. “That could be, if the ICC continues down that road, that could be another potential target for designations and sanctions under this order.”

Spokespeople for the ICC and the Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The US official said they hope the severe potential penalties, made along with a national emergency declaration, will work where previous threats failed.

“There are roughly 1,000 employees of the International Criminal Court. The exact number that are participating in this investigation remain to be seen. Certainly it is our hope that this sends a strong message to the ICC to desist in this investigation,” a senior administration official said. “For countries that may be presented with requests from the ICC, we similarly in this order make clear to them that there will be consequences for participating or providing assistance.”

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