WASHINGTON—The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda over her investigation into whether Taliban, Afghan, and American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.
The United States is not a party state to the Rome Statute of the ICC.
"Today we take the next step, because the ICC continues to target Americans, sadly," Pompeo told reporters.
Pompeo also said that individuals and entities that continue to materially support Bensouda and Mochochoko would risk exposure to sanctions as well.
The State Department also restricted the issuance of visas for individuals Pompeo said were involved in the court's efforts to investigate U.S. personnel. He did not name those affected.
Pompeo also said Phakiso Mochochoko, the head of the ICC's Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division, had also been blacklisted under sanctions authorized by President Donald Trump in June that allow for asset freezes and travel bans.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was concerned by Pompeo's announcement.
Bensouda was given the go-ahead by the ICC in March to investigate whether war crimes were committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan military, U.S. forces and the CIA.
The United States revoked Bensouda's entry visa last year over the possible Afghanistan inquiry. But under an agreement between the United Nations and Washington, she was still able to regularly travel to New York to brief the U.N. Security Council on cases it had referred to the court in The Hague.
Rights groups immediately condemned the U.S. designations.
Richard Dicker, Human Rights Watch international justice director, said it was a "stunning perversion of U.S. sanctions."
"The Trump administration has twisted these sanctions to obstruct justice, not only for certain war crimes victims, but for atrocity victims anywhere looking to the International Criminal Court for justice," he said.
Pompeo said that while not a party to the ICC's investigations, the United States "has consistently sought to uphold good and punish evil under international law.
"We will continue to do so," he said. "Americans are proud to stand for truth and justice. We have no intention of letting the ICC’s illegitimate activities become a barrier to that pursuit."