ICC prosecutor hopes for new US relations after sanctions

UNITED NATIONS — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court expressed appreciation to the Biden administration Monday for lifting sanctions against her and another ICC official, saying her office “hopes to establish a new relationship with the United States rooted in mutual respect and constructive dialogue.”

Fatou Bensouda told a virtual U.N. Security Council meeting at the end of her final briefing on Libya that she welcomed the reversal of the “unprecedented measures” against her and Phakiso Mochochoko, head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division. Her term is nearing an end and she will be replaced as prosecutor June 15 by Karim Khan.

The sanctions were imposed under President Donald Trump on Sept. 2, 2020, over the court’s investigations into alleged war crimes by the United States in Afghanistan and by U.S. ally Israel in the Palestinian territories.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced April 2 that the sanctions were lifted, calling them “inappropriate and ineffective.” Blinken called for closer cooperation between the United States and the ICC, though the U.S. is not a member of the tribunal established to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The U.S. deputy ambassador at the United Nations, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, began his remarks at Monday’s council meeting commending Bensouda’s efforts “to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the heinous atrocities committed against the Libyan people.”

He noted “the important but necessary step” that President Joe Biden took in lifting the sanctions, which he reiterated were “inappropriate.”

“For our part, we hope this can help us return to a time of cooperation between the United States and the ICC,” DeLaurentis said. “After all, justice, accountability, and the rule of law are values we share, and we believe they’re advanced by engaging the rest of the world.”

Bensouda noted the traditional role that the United States has played “in the birth and the advancement of international criminal justice.”

“We hope to build on these developments,” she said.