June 11, 2020

The undersigned organizations express their deep concern regarding today’s announcement by Secretary of State Pompeo and other senior U.S. officials that the United States, among other things, has invoked emergency powers in order to threaten asset freezes and other punitive actions against officials of the International Criminal Court, their family members, and those who assist their investigations.

The ICC exists because it is difficult to hold government officials and other powerful actors accountable when they commit grave human rights abuses. That impunity, in turn, is corrosive to the broader rule of law, the prospects of lasting peace, and respect for the dignity of all. Since the ICC’s establishment in 2002 as a court of last resort, diverse coalitions of faith-based organizations, human rights advocates, legal practitioners, victims of atrocities, and other constituencies have often looked to it to complement and reinforce their work for justice. Like all other human institutions, the ICC has room for improvement. Nevertheless, from Uganda and the Central African Republic to Darfur and the situation in Bangladesh/Myanmar, the ICC continues to play a vital role, filling gaps in the justice system by independently investigating and prosecuting grave atrocity crimes when national authorities do not do so, or when they seek out help.

This is the context that makes the latest steps in the U.S. government’s attack on the ICC so alarming. It is unacceptable that the United States would target the judges, prosecutors, and other legal professionals of a court that more than 120 countries have joined – including U.S. allies in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region – using tools that are designed to stigmatize war criminals and disrupt terrorist networks. At this fragile moment in our country and globally, the U.S. government must find ways to address its stated concerns without alienating other countries that have supported international justice or signaling to those who may face the scrutiny of institutions like the ICC that intimidation is an acceptable means of avoiding accountability.

The United States can and should be a powerful voice for justice and accountability for mass atrocities. Punitive measures against the ICC diminish the credibility of that voice. We urge the administration to reverse the steps it has announced, and we urge members of Congress to clearly and publicly oppose this policy.

  1. The Advocates for Human Rights
  2. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  3. American Friends Service Committee
  4. American Jewish World Service
  5. Amnesty International USA
  6. Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
  7. Center for Victims of Torture
  8. Charity & Security Network
  9. Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd Darfur Women Action Group
  10. Fortify Rights
  11. Friends Committee on National Legislation
  12. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  13. Global Justice Center
  14. Human Rights First
  15. Human Rights Watch
  16. The International Center for Transitional Justice
  17. The International Criminal Court Alliance
  18. The International Criminal Court Student Network
  19. International Justice Project
  20. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  21. National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
  22. Never Again Coalition
  23. Pax Christi USA
  24. Physicians for Human Rights
  25. Presbyterian Church (USA)
  26. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  27. The Sentry
  28. Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team
  29. Union for Reform Judaism
  30. Unitarian Universalist Association
  31. United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
  32. The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
  33. United Nations Association – Greater Philadelphia
  34. War Crimes Research Office, American University, Washington College of Law World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy
  35. World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law

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