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ABA President Refo Welcomes Removal of US Sanctions on ICC Personnel

On April 2, 2021, President Biden revoked Executive Order 13928 (issued June 2020), which had created a legal regime for travel and financial sanctions to be imposed against ICC personnel, their family members, and civil and criminal penalties against those who support or assist sanctioned individuals. The previous administration had imposed sanctions on the ICC Prosecutor and another senior staff member in Sept. 2020.  Other previously imposed restrictions on ICC personnel were also lifted.

In a press statement, US Secretary of State Blinken said the revocation decisions “reflect [their] assessment that the measures adopted were inappropriate and ineffective,” and that despite the administration’s disagreement with certain ICC cases, US concerns “would be better addressed through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than through the imposition of sanctions.”

In a statement, ABA President Patricia Lee Refo welcomed the change and reiterated that sanctioning legal professionals weakens the rule of law.

Three successive ABA Presidents have issued public statements urging the United States to refrain from and reverse threats and sanctions against legal professionals for their work pursuing accountability for atrocity crimes at the ICC, and urging all governments to respect and protect the Court’s independence. In Aug. 2020, the ABA adopted policy (Res. 114) condemning such threats. As previously highlighted by President Refo, Executive Order 13928 and associated sanctions could have had potentially “severe consequences not only for ICC officials and staff, but also for the diverse groups of victims and legal professionals who contribute to the court’s work.”

Read the ABA’s full statement here.


Part of the Atrocity Crimes Initiative, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Project is an independent initiative of the ABA Center for Human Rights and Criminal Justice Section that advances international criminal justice and US-ICC relations through advocacy, education and practical legal assistance. For more information about the ICC Project, including ABA policy related to the ICC, visit its website.

As the ABA said when the sanctions were first imposed, punitive measures, taken against persons performing their institutional duties under international law, weaken the rule of law globally.

— ABA President Patricia Lee Refo