Switzerland ‘regrets’ US sanctions against ICC employees

A US marine searches an Afghan man in Helmand Province (2009) Keystone / Kevin Frayer

This content was published on June 13, 2020 - 11:37

Switzerland on Friday urged the United States to revoke sanctions against employees of The International Criminal Court investigating whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

The Swiss foreign ministry reaffirmed its support for The Hague-based court. It noted that by prosecuting the most serious crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and acts of aggression – the ICC contributes to peace and international stability.

“Switzerland is concerned about the additional visa restrictions and new economic sanctions, which the United States has imposed on ICC employees, their families and natural and legal persons who support investigations against American citizens,” the ministry stated.  “Switzerland calls on the USA to revoke these comprehensive measures.”  

The statement also noted that the primary responsibility for prosecution lies with the national authorities and that the ICC can only initiate investigations against individuals where national legal systems are unwilling or unable to genuinely carry out proceedings.

“Switzerland therefore calls on the United States to conduct a full investigation and prosecution of US personnel implicated in such crimes,” added the statement.

On Thursday, US S Secretary Mike Pompeo announced an executive order authorising the imposition of travel and economic sanctions against ICC personnel investigating whether US forces violated international law in Afghanistan.

"We cannot, we will not stand by as our people are threatened by a kangaroo court," Pompeo said. "I have a message to many close allies in the world. Your people could be next, especially those from NATO countries who fight terrorism in Afghanistan right alongside us."

A U.S.-led international military coalition invaded Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 in reprisal for the deadly terrorist strikes in the United States. Blamed for harboring al-Qaeda leaders who plotted the attacks on US soil, the Taliban was bombed and ousted from power.

In its first military deployment since 1815, Switzerland joined Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003, deploying 31 soldiers to Afghanistan to support NATO troops .The Swiss mission ended in 2008External link when two officers who had served alongside German troops returned.

Washington has promised to withdraw from Afghanistan in May 2021.

Although a peace process is underway, violence remains a part of life in many Afghan provinces.  

Afghanistan is one of the main countries of origins for asylum seekers who come to Switzerland and Europe.

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