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EU calls on US to reverse 'unacceptable' ICC sanctions amid war crimes probe

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell addresses a press conference following a videoconference with EU Defence Ministers in Brussels on June 16, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The EU foreign policy chief has urged Washington to reverse its "unacceptable and unprecedented" sanctions on International Criminal Court (ICC) officials investigating US troops, as it conducts a probe into wartime atrocities in Afghanistan.

"The European Union expresses grave concern about the announced measures and reconfirms its unwavering support for the International Criminal Court," EU foreign affairs high representative Josep Borrell said in a statement on Tuesday.

Borrell has previously expressed "serious concern" over US President Donald Trump's order to impose sanctions on ICC officials.

Trump issued an executive order on Thursday to force the Hague-based tribunal out of the investigation into potential war crimes by US military and intelligence officials in the Asian country.

He said the United States would block all American property and assets of anyone in the ICC involved in the probe.

Trump administration officials accuse the ICC of infringing upon American national sovereignty and accuse Russia of manipulating the court.

Rights campaigners strongly denounced Trump's executive order. Human Rights Watch said that it "demonstrates contempt for the global rule of law."

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wants to investigate possible crimes committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as US troops and members of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The ICC investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan was given the go-ahead in March.

Bensouda's move angered Washington, which in April last year revoked the Gambian-born chief prosecutor's visa as part of broader restrictions on ICC staff probing American or allied personnel.

Former US national security adviser John Bolton warned in 2018 that the US would arrest ICC judges if the court pursued an Afghan probe. 

The US invaded Afghanistan to overthrow a ruling Taliban regime in 2001. However, American forces have since remained bogged down in the country through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Trump.

About 2,400 US soldiers have been killed, along with unknown tens of thousands of Afghan troops, civilians and Taliban militants.

America has spent more than $1 trillion in fighting in Afghanistan.

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