Photo Credit: ICC-CPI/Aleksandra Milic
Photo Credit: ICC-CPI/Aleksandra Milic

NGOs, faith-based groups, legal professionals, experts, and former government officials unequivocally oppose U.S. sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC)

21 September 2020

The undersigned organizations and individuals write to express grave concerns and unequivocally oppose the Trump administration’s use of the sanctions authority of the United States to attack the International Criminal Court (ICC), an independent judicial institution dedicated to combatting impunity for the gravest crimes known to humanity.

Many of the undersigned spoke out against steps in this direction taken earlier this year by the U.S. administration. We now issue this further statement because it is uniquely dangerous, extreme, and unprecedented to utilize a mechanism designed to penalize criminals, their aiders, and abettors, against an independent judicial institution. Asset freezes and entry restrictions are tools intended to combat individuals and entities constituting a threat to U.S. national security. By applying these measures to a court that 123 countries – and on two occasions, the United Nations Security Council – have entrusted with providing accountability for atrocity crimes, the United States has brought upon itself the stigma of siding with impunity over justice. The administration’s actions jeopardize the ability of desperate victims to access justice, weaken the credibility underpinning the use of sanction tools in other contexts, and put the United States at odds with its closest allies.

The ICC represents and constitutes part of a global system of international justice of which the United States was a chief architect at Nuremberg and beyond. Today, the ICC, alongside other tribunals, regional mechanisms, and national courts, is carrying forward these efforts through investigations and prosecutions that could help realize justice for atrocity victims from Sudan to Myanmar. As a court of last resort, the ICC only can intervene when and where a State has demonstrated unwillingness or inability to hold its nationals to account for crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction. The ICC therefore provides an essential backstop for victims who have no other recourse to justice. The use of sanctions has the potential for wide-reaching impact against this institution dedicated to advancing justice for victims.

At an historical moment when the global rule of law is under attack from multiple fronts, institutions like the International Criminal Court are needed more than ever to advance human rights protections and the universal goal of preventing future atrocities. Instead, these sanctions send a signal that could embolden authoritarian regimes and others with reason to fear accountability who seek to evade justice. It is essential that the United States answer any allegation of wrongdoing in a manner that does not betray the cause of global justice, abandon international cooperation, or compromise support for human dignity and rights.

As human rights, legal, and faith-based organizations, as well as individuals who have dedicated their careers to these causes, we call upon the U.S. government to rescind the Executive Order authorizing sanctions and return to constructive engagement with the ICC. We urge other governments, Members of Congress, and advocates for victims everywhere to raise their voices to oppose these measures. We invite allies of justice to join us in standing against these destructive measures/attacks.

  1. The Advocates for Human Rights American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  2. American Jewish World Service
  3. Amnesty International USA
  4. Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
  5. Center for the Study of Law and Genocide, Loyola Law School
  6. Cornell International Human Rights Clinic
  7. Darfur Women Action Group
  8. Freedom Forward
  9. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  10. Global Justice Center
  11. Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law*
  12. Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley School of Law
  13. Human Rights First
  14. Human Rights Institute, Georgetown University Law Center
  15. Human Rights Watch
  16. International Center for Transitional Justice
  17. International Criminal Court Alliance
  18. International Criminal Court Student Network
  19. J Street
  20. Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, Fordham Law School
  21. The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  22. Never Again Coalition
  23. Pax Christi USA
  24. Physicians for Human Rights
  25. Project Blueprint
  26. The Promise Institute for Human Rights, UCLA School of Law
  27. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center
  28. The Sentry
  29. Syria Justice & Accountability Center
  30. United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
  31. The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
  32. United Nations Association – Greater Philadelphia
  33. U.S. Campaign for Burma
  34. Victim Advocates International
  35. Win Without War
  36. World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy (WFM/IGP)
  37. World Without Genocide at Mitchell Hamline School of Law

* Endorsement by the Global Justice Clinic (GJC) does not reflect the institutional views, if any, of NYU.

Affiliations of individuals are for identification purposes only.

Enid H. Adler, Esq.

Todd F. Buchwald
Former Ambassador, Office of Global Criminal Justice, U.S. Department of State

Professor Doug Cassel
Emeritus Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School

Yasmine Chubin
Former Trial Lawyer, Office of the Prosecutor, ICC (2014-2017)

Professor David M. Crane
Founding Chief Prosecutor, Special Court for Sierra Leone; Founder, Global Accountability Network

Professor Megan A. Fairlie
Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law

Benjamin B. Ferencz
Chief Prosecutor, Einsatzgruppen Trial, Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal

Professor Mark Harrison
Clinical Professor, Cornell Law School

Dr. Mark Kersten
Consultant, Wayamo Foundation; Researcher, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Jeremy Kuester
Former Deputy Associate Director, U.S. Department of the Treasury/Financial Crimes Enforcement Network

Stephen J. Rapp
Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice (2009-2015)

Professor Leila Nadya Sadat
James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law, Washington University School of Law

Professor Michael P. Scharf
Joseph C. Hostetler – BakerHostetler Professor of Law, Case Western University School of Law

David J. Scheffer
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001)

Rebecca A. Shoot
Interim Convener, Washington Working Group for the International Criminal Court (WICC)

Professor Jane Stromseth
Francis Cabell Brown Professor of International Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Professor Jennifer Trahan
Clinical Professor, NYU Center for Global Affairs

Professor Johan D. Van der Vyver
I.T. Cohen Professor of International Law & Human Rights, Emory University School of Law

John Washburn
Founding Convener, Washington Working Group for the International Criminal Court (WICC)

Clint Williamson
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues (2006-2009)

Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and other NGOs


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