France urges US to withdraw sanctions against ICC officials

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) looks on as U.S. President Donald Trump flicks a bit of dandruff off his jacket during their meeting in the Oval Office following the official arrival ceremony for Macron at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RC1F6E15B290

Paris, June 13 (IANS) France has urged the US to withdraw its sanctions against officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC) engaged in an investigation into possible war crimes by American forces in Afghanistan.

The US’ decision “represents a serious attack on the Court and the States Parties to the Rome Statute, and beyond that, a challenge to multi-lateralism and judicial independence”, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement on Friday.

On Thursday, the White House said in a statement that President Donald Trump has authorized economic sanctions against ICC officials “directly engaged with any effort to investigate or prosecute United States personnel without the consent of the US”, as well as the expansion of visa restrictions against these officials and their family members.

France reiterated its full support for the court, which has also condemed the US sanctions, saying that “constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings”.

“The Court is the only permanent international criminal court with a universal vocation,” Le Drian said.

Noting the court plays a vital role in the fight against impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, Le Drian said: “France will strive to ensure that the Court is able to fulfill its mission in an independent and impartial manner.”

The ICC in March authorized an investigation into possible war crimes in Afghanistan, including those that may have been committed by the US military and the Central Intelligence Agency, which could lead to the indictment of personnel.

In a statement on Thursday, the court vowed it would stand firmly by its staff and remain “unwavering in its commitment to discharging, independently and impartially, the mandate bestowed upon it by the Rome Statute and the States that are party to it”.

The ICC, which has 123 member states, was established when the Rome Statute took effect in 2002.

It prosecutes crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.

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