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Denial of U.S. Visas to ICC Investigators Undermines Global Rule of Law

Today, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced a policy restricting the allocation of U.S. visas to International Criminal Court (ICC) investigators or any persons responsible for initiating or furthering investigations into U.S. personnel for alleged war crimes. He said implementation of the policy has already begun. As an organization focused on accountability and committed to the advancement of human rights for all, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) expressed alarm about the policy.

Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy at PHR, said:

“PHR is appalled by Secretary Pompeo’s announcement of reprisals, including visa denials, against International Criminal Court investigators and human rights workers seeking entry to the United States to investigate alleged war crimes. His comments today in Washington constitute a direct attack by the Trump administration on a foundational institution prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

“PHR calls on the U.S. government to immediately reverse this harmful policy that undermines the credible efforts of the ICC to uphold the global rule of law, especially in situations where it stands as a court of last resort when governments are unable or unwilling to hold their own citizens accountable.

“The United States and its citizens, as well as its allies, should be held to the same standard as every other country. The policy Pompeo publicized today sends a chilling message to the victims of mass atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, and elsewhere, who count on the ICC for justice in the face of mass killings, rape,chemical weapons attacks, and the bombing of hospitals and health care facilities that are adhering to medical ethics and international humanitarian norms by providing medical treatment to all.”

PHR Board Member Ambassador Stephen J. Rapp, former head of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, and now a Distinguished Fellow for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center, said, “Since Nuremberg, the United States has led efforts to bring to justice the thugs and strongmen who use torture, rape, and murder to gain or hold power. We have stood with the investigators and prosecutors who have pursued the perpetrators on behalf of the victims of atrocities. Tell me that we are not changing sides.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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