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Pompeo Reups Threats to ICC Over US, Israel War Crimes Probes, Showing White House 'Determined to Prevent' Accountability

"You'll see in the coming days a series of announcements not just from the State Department, from all across the United States government, that attempt to push back against what the ICC is up to," said the secretary of state.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is continuing the Trump administration's threats against the International Criminal Court, saying in a recent interview that the White House would soon be making "announcements" to show the world "we are determined to prevent having Americans and our friends and allies in Israel and elsewhere hauled in by this corrupt ICC."

"Once again, the Trump administration is taking a page out of a dictator's playbook and threatening to interfere with judicial proceedings," Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and legal representative of victims of U.S. torture at the ICC, said in a statement to Common Dreams.

Pompeo's remarks, first reported by Politico, came in an interview with the right-wing American Enterprise Institute's "What the Hell Is Going On?" podcast released Monday.

The secretary of state was asked if he was concerned about the ICC's probe into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. To the plaudits of human rights advocates, the court advanced that investigation in March despite the White House's moves to bully prosecutors into dropping the attempt to hold the U.S. accountable for its overseas actions, including alleged crimes committed as part of the U.S. torture program at CIA "black sites."

Pompeo responded that he was "very concerned" about the investigation. "You'll see in the coming days a series of announcements not just from the State Department, from all across the United States government, that attempt to push back against what the ICC is up to," he said.

The ICC officially has jurisdiction over crimes committed by actors within countries that are parties to the Rome Statute, but Pompeo suggested the court didn't have the power to follow its investigation of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan, saying, "We never signed up for it."

He also bashed the ICC as "corrupted," claimed the court is wrong to think it can "haul these young men and women in," referring to U.S. forces, and reiterated the administration's rebuke of the ICC probe into alleged crimes committed by Israeli forces in Palestine.  

"We will never let that happen," said Pompeo. "We're working along many fronts to prevent it from happening. They're doing this not just to us, but to Israel, where they're beginning to look into what took place in the West Bank."

"Again," he continued, "it's completely inappropriate, it's completely inconsistent with international law, and it puts our young men and women at risk and it's something President Trump and our team aren't going to permit to happen."

"I don't want to get ahead of the announcements we're going to make in the coming days, but I think you'll see, and I think that the ICC and the world will see, that we are determined to prevent having Americans and our friends and allies in Israel and elsewhere hauled in by this corrupt ICC," said Pompeo.

CCR's Gallagher, in her statement, stressed that the Trump administration could take steps to avoid ICC probes.

One step is to "ensure that its military and security forces don't commit war crimes and crimes against humanity on the territory of the 123 countries that are members of the ICC," she said.

If such crimes are committed, the other choice facing the Trump administration is to "conduct independent investigations up to the top of the chain of command and, if warranted, prosecutions," said Gallagher.

"Threatening to sanction judges, prosecutors, and lawyers who seek justice is not what democracies do," she continued, "and if the U.S. goes further down this path, it is making clear that it is no longer a country committed to the rule of law."

This post has been updated to include comment from Gallagher.

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