By Kunle Adedoyin
The United States on Friday revoked its visa for Fatou Bensouda, the top prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, in apparent reaction to her commitment to probe of possible war crimes by American soldiers in Afghanistan.
“What we can confirm is that the US authorities have revoked the prosecutor’s visa for entry into the US,” the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC said in a statement Friday morning.
The ICC said that under the Rome statute governing the tribunal — which was adopted in 2002 — she had an “independent and impartial mandate” to pursue allegations of war crimes.
“The prosecutor and her office will continue to undertake that statutory duty with utmost commitment and professionalism, without fear or favour,” the statement added.
On March 15, U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, warned that Bensouda and other ICC officials could be restricted from entering the country if they fail to heed America’s demand for the investigation to be dropped.
“If you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan you should not assume that you still have, or will get, a visa or that you will permitted to enter the United States,” Pompeo had said.
Despite the revocation, the ICC prosecutor’s office said Bensouda would still be able to enter the United Nations in New York to continue her regular briefings to the UN Security Council on several investigations her office has been handling.
Bensouda, a Gambian, has been the chief prosecutor at the ICC since 2012.
The 58-year-old asked ICC judges in November 2017 for authorisation to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan government forces and international forces, led by the U.S. military.
The court has been mulling whether to launch a full-scale probe into the matter. The U.S. is not a signatory to the 2002 statute, and has criticized its composition and conduct for years.
In recent years, several African countries have criticized the court for targeting Africans, a claim the court denied, especially after achieving many convictions in the Bosnian war.
Burundi became the first country in history to successfully pull out of the court in October 2017. The Gambia and South Africa had once applied to withdraw, but have since abandoned the move.