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Trump admin to ban entry of International Criminal Court investigators

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By Dan De Luce and Abigail Williams

The United States will repeal or deny visas to International Criminal Court staff seeking to investigate Americans in Afghanistan or elsewhere and may take similar action to protect Israelis or other allied forces from prosecution, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

“We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo said.

The unprecedented move came amid a pending request by the ICC prosecutor’s office to open a probe into possible war crimes by Afghan or U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and after national security adviser John Bolton, a vehement critic of the court, threatened punitive action in September.

The visa restrictions are “a part of the continued effort to convince the ICC to change course with its potential investigation and potential prosecution of Americans for their activities and our allies activities in Afghanistan,” Pompeo told a press conference.

The secretary of state said the administration has already begun to carry out the visa restrictions but did not offer any more details.

Referring to court employees, Pompeo said that “you should know if you’re responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of U.S. personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan you should not assume that you will still have or will get a visa or that you will be permitted to enter the United States.”

Pompeo added that the administration was prepared to impose visa restrictions in other cases involving allies, including Israel. “These visa restrictions may also be used to deter ICC efforts to pursue allied personnel including Israelis without allies consent,” he said.

The prosecutor for the ICC has a request pending to investigate possible war crimes in Afghanistan linked to Afghan and U.S. military and intelligence personnel, including at detention sites. A U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report in 2014 concluded that interrogations of detainees after the 9/11 attacks in Afghanistan and elsewhere were “brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others.”

Pompeo also said the U.S. was ready to increase the pressure on the ICC if necessary.

“These visa restrictions will not be the end of our efforts. We are prepared to take additional steps including economic sanctions if the ICC does not change its course,” he said, without elaborating.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague said it was aware of the U.S. announcement.

“The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law,” ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said in an email.

He added that the ICC is a court of last resort that exercises its jurisdiction only when governments do not meet their responsibility to investigate and prosecute atrocities.

Human rights groups denounced the Trump administration’s decision.

The move represents “a thuggish attempt to penalize investigators at the International Criminal Court for doing their job — investigating war crimes,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

“The Trump administration is trying an end run around accountability. Taking action against those who work for the ICC sends a clear message to torturers and murderers alike: Their crimes may continue unchecked,” she said.

In September, after Bolton vowed to penalize the ICC if it did not abandon possible plans to investigate U.S. forces, the court said it would not be deterred by Washington’s threat and would carry on its work.

The U.S. for decades promoted the idea of international criminal justice and was instrumental in establishing the Nuremberg trials after World War II, as well as more recent tribunals prosecuting war crimes in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia and elsewhere.

But Washington has never been a member of the ICC. In 2000, the Clinton administration signed the Rome statute that set up the court but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification as there was strong bipartisan opposition to allowing American troops to be prosecuted outside of the U.S.

Under George W. Bush’s administration, Bolton, as a senior State Department official, led the effort to withdraw the United States from the statute for the ICC.

The Obama administration had a less hostile stance toward the court and lent some limited support to the ICC’s investigations, according to legal experts.

The ICC is the only permanent international criminal tribunal with a mandate to investigate and prosecute the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression.

There are currently 123 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute and are members of the ICC.

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Brexit extension EXPLAINED: Which is most likely – two, three months, one or two years?

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MPS have voted to back an extension on Article 50 – effectively asking for a delay to Brexit. But how long could the delay be?

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No deal Brexit plans get MAJOR BOOST – UK agrees £30bn agreement with Iceland and Norway

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THE UK’s Trade Secretary boosted no deal Brexit plans by announcing a new trade agreement with the two Scandinavian countries as the Government looks to secure 39 EU trade deals before Brexit day.

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Booker denounces Trump’s rhetoric as ‘causing pain and fear’

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By Ludwig Hurtado

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker said in an interview set to air Monday night that President Donald Trump’s rhetoric “hurts people” and is “causing pain and fear.”

“Racists think he’s racist, and his language hurts people,” the New Jersey senator said when asked by MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews if he believes Trump is racist. “His language is causing pain and fear. The way he’s talking is making people afraid.”

In making the criticism, Booker, who spoke with Matthews while in Davenport, Iowa, referenced an increase in hate crimes around the country, saying, “people are afraid to go worship at a mosque or a synagogue because hate is on the rise, and these hate incidents are rising.”

“We have a president that can’t stand up with any moral authority and remind us that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and it’s despicable,” he added.

Booker’s comments come in the wake of the New Zealand mosque massacre on Friday, in which a white supremacist allegedly killed 50 people. The alleged shooter wrote in an apparent manifesto that he supported Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” although he said he disagreed with his policies.

Trump, who has made inflammatory comments about immigrants, Muslims and white nationalists, condemned the shooting on Friday. But when asked if he believes white nationalist terrorism and violence is a rising concern globally, the president said, said, “I don’t really.” He added that he thinks “it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

On Monday morning, Trump tweeted, “The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand. They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”

There have been several white nationalist or white supremacist attacks in the U.S. over the past few years, including the massacre of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue last fall and the murder of nine black churchgoers at a congregation in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015.

At a campaign event in Detroit on Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke also condemned Trump’s rhetoric.

“A president who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, a president who wants to ban all Muslim travel to the United States of America because, the implication being, Muslims are somehow more dangerous or violent than people of other traditions of faith, a president who calls Klansmen, and Nazis and white nationalists ‘very fine people’ is giving permission to others in this country and around the world to commit acts of hatred,” the former Texas congressman said.

Beto O’Rourke speaks with Chuck Todd in Iowa for “Meet The Press.”NBC News

O’Rourke noted that a mosque in his home state was burned to the ground on the day that Trump signed his Muslim travel ban.

“It’s not just the words,” O’Rourke said. “It’s the actions that follow.”

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended Trump during a pair of interviews on the Sunday political talk shows.

“You’ve seen the president stand up for religious liberty, individual liberty,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The president is not a white supremacist. I’m not sure how many times we have to say that. And to simply ask the question, every time something like this happens overseas, or even domestically, to say, ‘Oh, my goodness, it must somehow be the president’s fault,’ speaks to a politicization of everything that I think is undermining sort of the institutions that we have in the country today.”



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