THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday that the global tribunal’s relationship with the United States — plunged into the deep freeze by former President Donald Trump — is undergoing a “reset” under his successor, Joe Biden.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made the comments in an interview with The Associated Press, on the day Biden was meeting NATO allies in Brussels to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to the military alliance — in another break from the Trump era of deep skepticism toward multilateralism.
Bensouda spoke to AP at the court’s headquarters in The Hague on the eve of leaving office after her nine-year term as the ICC’s chief prosecutor. Her successor, British lawyer Karim Khan, takes office on Wednesday.
The Trump administration hit Bensouda with sanctions for pressing ahead with investigations into the U.S. and its allies, notably Israel, for alleged war crimes. She was subjected to a travel ban in March 2019, and 18 months later a freeze on her U.S.-based assets.
“I do believe that it was wrong. Really, a red line has been crossed,” Bensouda said of the sanctions.
Biden lifted the sanctions in April but Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed that Washington still strongly disagreed with some actions by the court.
“We believe, however, that our concerns about these cases would be better addressed” through diplomacy “rather than through the imposition of sanctions,” Blinken wrote.
Bensouda welcomed the change of tone.
“We are at a more helpful place now because the Biden administration has decided to lift those sanctions and both the administration and ourselves, we are working on some kind of a reset that is the relationship between the ICC and the US administration,” she said.
The court is investigating allegations of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by U.S. troops and foreign intelligence operatives, as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the Afghanistan conflict that also covers alleged crimes by Afghan government forces and the Taliban.
Afghan authorities have asked the court to take over the probe.
Bensouda met with Afghanistan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar last month to discuss the case.