US President Biden lifts Trump-imposed sanctions, visa restrictions on International Criminal Court officials

April 03, 2021 | Updated 9:30 am

US President Biden lifts Trump-imposed sanctions, visa restrictions on International Criminal Court officials File photos of US President Joe Biden, and his former counterpart Donald Trump - (Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

Washington: The US lifted sanctions and visa restrictions imposed by Donald Trump’s administration on officials of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC officials were investigating American military and intelligence officials for potential war crimes in Afghanistan and have also been probing against alleged crimes by American ally Israel in Palestinian territories.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement on Friday said that President Joe Biden had revoked the sanctions imposed by the previous Trump administration on personnel of the Netherlands-based ICC. The US diplomat said the sanctions “were inappropriate and ineffective” and called for closer co-operation.

“Today, President [Joe] Biden revoked Executive Order 13928 on ‘Blocking Property of Certain Persons Associated with the International Criminal Court (ICC),’ ending the threat and imposition of economic sanctions and visa restrictions in connection with the Court,” the US Secretary of State said.

“As a result, the sanctions imposed by the previous administration against ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, the Head of the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division of the Office of the Prosecutor, have been lifted,” Blinken said.

The Biden administration also terminated the policy from 2019 which had imposed visa restrictions on certain ICC personnel, Blinken said. His statement said that Washington continued to “disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations” and that US maintained its longstanding objection to the ICC’s “efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-States Parties such as the United States and Israel”. The United States does not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. The Trump administration in September 2020 imposed economic sanctions on ICC officials, including Gambian- born Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The sanctions froze any US assets Bensouda may have had.

Earlier in 2020, Trump also authorized the use of such sanctions against the ICC, and also declared the situation a national emergency, calling the court a “threat” to the US. The Trump administration had revoked Bensouda’s US visa, citing her efforts to investigate alleged crimes in Afghanistan. It also said it would ban visas for others linked to the court, though it gave few details.

Biden allows expiry of Trump-era H-1B Visa restrictions

The Biden administration has also let the ban on foreign workers’ visas expire on Thursday, particularly H-1B which will benefit Indian techies who want to go to the US.

The H-1B visa is a form of non-immigrant visa which allows American companies to employ workers from other countries, especially those who have technical or theoretical expertise. Many US companies depend on these to hire thousands of employees from countries like India and China, every year.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday, let the visa ban expire on March 31, as he did not issue a fresh notification for the ban on H-1 B visas, a move that will benefit Indian IT professionals.

Former US President Donald Trump, amid the COVID-19 lockdown had suspended the entry of applicants to the US who had applied for non-immigrant visa categories or temporary visas, which included H-1 B. He argued that these pose a risk to the US labour market and economic recovery. The previous notification expired on December 31, And Trump extended the proclamation for another three months to March 31, citing the high level of unemployment and job loss in the American market.

Biden at the time of the Presidential elections had said that he will lift the ban on H-1B visa.

(With ANI inputs)