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United Nations, United States | Seventy-two countries at the United Nations on Monday offered strong support for the International Criminal Court as two of its officials face sanctions from Washington.
Since the court's creation, Washington has refused to recognize the authority of the ICC, a special multilateral court set up to try genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity cases.
However, on September 2, the government of US President Donald Trump took the unprecedented step of sanctioning chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, along with another senior ICC official.
"We reconfirm our unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial Institution," read a joint declaration signed by countries that include traditional US allies such as Australia, Canada, Britain and France.
The signatories, all from countries that signed the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, vowed "to preserve its integrity and independence undeterred by any measures or threats against the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it."
Sanctions, the declaration read, "are a tool to be used against those responsible for the most serious crimes, not against those seeking justice.
"Any attempt to undermine the independence of the Court should not be tolerated."
The joint statement "marks a stark rebuttal of Washington's unprecedented use of sanctions seeking to undermine the work of the ICC," said Richard Dicker with Human Rights Watch.
The statement "says loud and clear to the US administration: this is our court, back off," Dicker said.
Based in The Hague and starting operations in 2002, the ICC earlier this year opened a war crimes probe into US military personnel in Afghanistan.
Washington's ambassador to the UN, Richard Mills, said that the United States "reiterates its continuing, longstanding, principled objection to any attempt to assert ICC jurisdiction over nationals of States that are not parties to the Rome Statute, including the United States and Israel, absent a UN Security Council referral or the consent of such a State."
He said that his government "seeks to protect US personnel from unjust and illegitimate prosecution by the ICC, which threatens US sovereignty."
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