TEBOHO KHATEBE MOLEFI
MASERU – The United States (US) government has lifted sanctions on two International Criminal Court (ICC) officials, a Lesotho national, Phakiso Mochochoko, and his colleague Fatou Bensouda.
Mochochoko is ICC Director of Jurisdiction, Complementary and Cooperation while his colleague Fatou holds the position of Chief within the same institution – the lifting of their ban is effective from April 2.
The US imposed sanctions on Mochochoko and Bensouda last year, allegedly over ICC investigation into whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
However, announcing the sanctions, then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, did not give any specific reasons for the move other than to say the ICC “continues to target Americans” and that Bensouda was “materially assisting” that alleged effort.
The US Treasury issued a statement saying Mochochoko and Bensouda had been deemed “specially designated nationals”, grouping them alongside terrorists and narcotics traffickers, blocking their assets and prohibited US citizens from having any dealings with them.
Incumbent US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, announced this week that the country’s new administration has assessed that the imposition of economic sanctions and VISA restrictions on the two officials by the previous administration was inappropriate and ineffective.
Blinken said the new government has, instead, opted to raise its concerns about Afghanistan and Palestinian cases through engagement with all stakeholders in the ICC process rather than though the imposition of sanctions.
Following the 2020 imposition of sanctions of Lesotho national local civic body, Development for Peace Education (DPE), called on the United States of America to withdraw sanctions on Mochochoko and his colleague.
The civil society and ordinary citizens at the DPE virtual meeting of September 7, 2020, called that the Trump administration should “retract its pronouncement to add Ms Fatou Bensouda citizen of Djibouti and Mr Phakiso Mochochoko citizen of Lesotho, both Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court to the list of Specially Designated Nationals in the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Unites States of America.”
The statement added that: “The meeting that was called by DPE deliberated on this issue and reached a decision to petition AU (African Union) Security and Peace Council as a port of entry into mobilising African leaders to stand up.”
DPE said “the highly charged meeting” mandated two people to develop a petition “which shall be send to the Council and be delivered to a number of centres in Lesotho and outside”. “The petition shall be circulated for signatures,” it said.