Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday affirmed President Donald Trump's disdain for the International Criminal Court when he appeared to boast of the White House's successful bullying effort to stop the court from launching a probe into possible war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Pompeo made the remarks in a "Celebrating Americanism in Our Foreign Policy" speech at the American Legion National Convention in Indianapolis.
"Americanism means taking care of our own," said Pompeo.
"We stopped international courts from prosecuting our service members," Pompeo continued, adding that the potential probe "was an outrage."
In April, the ICC announced that it rejected a probe into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. Outgoing ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested the investigation in 2017, saying at the time that there was a "reasonable basis to believe" that war crimes were committed by the Taliban, Afghan National Security Forces, U.S. armed forces, and the CIA. That move won the praise of human rights organizations and triggered over one million statements from alleged Afghan victims.
But the potential prosecutions also prompted threats from the White House, with Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, warning of sanctions against ICC officials if they moved ahead with probes into U.S. or Israeli war crimes.
Pompeo confirmed earlier this year that the administration would revoke or deny visas for ICC personnel who try to investigate or prosecute U.S. officials or key allies for potential war crimes. A month later, in April, the administration followed through and revoked prosecutor Bensouda's visa for entry into the U.S.
Trump, for his part, celebrated the rejected war crimes probe as an "international victory."
Human rights groups had a notably different takeaway.
"It is outrageous," said Jamil Dakwar, director of ACLU's group's human rights program, "that victims of war crimes are far less likely to get justice for well-documented atrocities because of the Trump administration's authoritarian efforts to sabotage an investigation before it could even get started."
"No one except the world's most brutal regimes win," Dakwar said, "when we weaken and sabotage international institutions established to fight impunity and hold the human rights abusers accountable."