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US brandishes sanctions over ICC war crimes probe

President Donald Trump on Thursday authorized sanctions against any official at the International Criminal Court who investigates US troops, ramping up pressure to stop its case into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

In an executive order, Trump said the United States would block US property and assets of anyone from The Hague-based tribunal involved in probing or prosecuting US troops.

“We cannot – we will not – stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement to reporters.

“I have a message to many close allies around the world – your people could be next, especially those from NATO countries who fought terrorism in Afghanistan right alongside of us.”

The court responded by stating that its president O-Gon Kwon “rejects measures taken against ICC,” calling them “unprecedented” and saying they “undermine our common endeavor to fight impunity and to ensure accountability for mass atrocities.”

US Attorney General Bill Barr alleged, without giving detail, that Russia and other adversaries of the United States have been “manipulating” the court.

Using Trump’s “America First” language, Barr said the administration was trying to bring accountability to a global body.

“This institution has become, in practice, little more than a political tool employed by unaccountable international elites,” he said.

‘Contempt’ for rule of law

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell voiced “serious concern” and said the court “must be respected and supported by all nations.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said he was “very disturbed” by the US move, and said The Netherlands supported the court on its soil.

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