The Trump administration is hitting back hard against the International Criminal Court over its plans to investigate alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. An executive order announced Thursday imposes sanctions on ICC officials and bars them—and their families—from visiting the US, the Guardian reports. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned earlier this year that sanctions would be applied if the war crimes tribunal decided to press ahead with a probe of alleged crimes committed by the US and other parties in the war. "It gives us no joy to punish them,” Pompeo said Thursday. “But we cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop and travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms."
The US is not among the court's 123 members. The Netherlands-based court said Friday that it "stands firmly by its staff and officials" and considers the US move "an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the Court’s judicial proceedings," the AP reports. It added that an attack on the ICC is "an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the Court represents the last hope for justice." After the executive order was signed Thursday, Pompeo described the ICC as a "kangaroo court" and said the sanctions were also related to the ICC's attempts to investigate Israel, reports the BBC. Attorney General William Barr said the sanctions were "just the first step" and the US plans to conduct its own investigation of alleged ICC corruption. (Read more International Criminal Court stories.)