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UK, Australia among 72 nations offering ICC ‘unwavering support’ | US & Canada



Statement backing court follows US move to sanction two top ICC officials over war crimes investigation into US troops.

Seventy-two countries at the United Nations on Monday offered their “unwavering support” for the International Criminal Court (ICC) after Washington imposed sanctions on two of the court’s key officials.

“We reconfirm our unwavering support for the Court as an independent and impartial judicial Institution,” read a joint declaration signed by countries that included Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and France, the United States’ traditional allies.

The signatories, all from countries that signed the Rome Statute that established the ICC in 2002, vowed “to preserve its integrity and independence undeterred by any measures or threats against the Court, its officials and those cooperating with it”.

Washington has refused to recognise the ICC, which is based in The Hague and was founded to try cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On September 2, the administration of US President Donald Trump took the unprecedented step of sanctioning chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, along with another senior ICC official, Phakiso Mochochoko. The two are investigating alleged war crimes involving US troops in Afghanistan.

The joint declaration said sanctions were “a tool to be used against those responsible for the most serious crimes, not against those seeking justice” and added that “any attempt to undermine the independence of the Court should not be tolerated.”

‘Stark rebuttal’

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, the director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.

The statement “says loud and clear to the US administration: this is our court, back off”, Dicker said.

The ICC opened a war crimes investigation into US military personnel in Afghanistan earlier this year.

Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Richard Mills, said that the US reiterated 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 the US government wanted “to protect US personnel from unjust and illegitimate prosecution by the ICC, which threatens US sovereignty”.

The ICC has condemned the US sanctions as “serious attacks” on the rule of law.

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Biden nominates Iran nuclear deal negotiator to State Department | Politics News



Wendy Sherman, Joe Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, was key US negotiator of 2015 Iran nuclear accord.

United States President-elect Joe Biden has nominated a key negotiator of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement to be the US’s next deputy secretary of state, the second-highest position at the State Department.

In a statement on Saturday, Biden unveiled a string of State Department nominees, including longstanding diplomat Wendy Sherman to be deputy secretary of state.

Sherman, a professor and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, served as under secretary of state for political affairs for four years during Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden was vice president.

“She has successfully rallied the world to strengthen democracy and confront some of the biggest national security challenges of our time, including leading the U.S. negotiating team for the Iran Deal,” the statement said.

Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, has promised to return to the accord under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the agreement in 2018 as he pursued a “maximum pressure” strategy against the Iranian government.

The Trump administration has hit Tehran with a wide array of sanctions and tensions between the two countries have increased amid a torrent of hostile rhetoric and actions in the final weeks of the Republican president’s time in office.

In mid-December, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran was not necessarily “excited” for Biden to take office, but that it was “very happy” to see Trump’s presidency end. “We are not very excited with Biden coming, but we are very happy with Trump going,” Rouhani said.

Meanwhile, Biden on Saturday also nominated Victoria Nuland, a retired career foreign service officer who was the top US diplomat for Europe, NATO ambassador and State Department spokeswoman, to be under secretary for political affairs.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to be secretary of state.

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