Lawyer Larry Gadon falsely claimed that retired International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was declared persona non grata by the United States (U.S.) for “inventing” cases of human rights violations.
In a June 18 video posted on his official Facebook (FB) account, Gadon accused Bensouda of “making noise” about the killings related to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs just so she could continue being on the ICC’s payroll.
He said Bensouda “should not be believed” and that she “had no credibility,” and noted that she came from Gambia, which Gadon mocked as a “backward” and “third world” country.
In the video, he said:
“In fact, even sa U.S., siya ay na-censure na at siya ay dineklara na persona non grata na siya ay gumagawa lamang ng mga kuwento diyan sa mga human rights … violations na iyan (in the U.S., she was censured and declared persona non grata, and making up human rights violations cases).”
Gadon, who was suspended from legal practice for three months by the Supreme Court in 2019 for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility, added that the Hague-based court “should not meddle in Philippine affairs” because the country had already withdrawn from the Rome Statute, the international agreement that created the ICC.
The lawyer’s erroneous video has garnered 6,400 reactions, 300 comments, and 56,000 views on FB as of June 30. It was reposted by YouTube channel Showbiz Fanaticz, garnering 78,000 views.
Gadon’s claim is false.
Economic sanctions and visa restrictions were imposed on Bensouda during the administration of former U.S. president Donald Trump in September 2020. But these were lifted in April 2021 under the term of his successor, Joe Biden.
On Sept. 2, 2020, Bensouda and Phakiso Mochochoko, ICC’s director of the jurisdiction, complementarity and cooperation division, were included in the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. This blocked their assets and prevented U.S. citizens from dealing with them. They were also denied the issuance of visas.
Both actions were based on a June 11, 2020 executive order (EO) by Trump, imposing economic sanctions and entry restrictions on “any foreign person” to have directly engaged in ICC efforts to investigate, arrest, detain, or prosecute any U.S. personnel over war crimes allegedly committed by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
According to Trump’s EO, sanctions were placed on the two officials because the ICC supposedly has no jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute U.S. personnel, running contrary to Gadon’s claim that it was because Bensouda “concocted” cases against the U.S.
The Biden administration maintained that while it “disagrees strongly” with the ICC’s investigation of U.S. officials, it does not believe in imposing sanctions to address the issue.
In her June 14 request to open an investigation on killings in the Philippines committed from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019 in the context of Duterte’s war on drugs, Bensouda reiterated the ICC’s jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes that happened when the country was still party to the Statute. (See Gov’t officials, police conspired to carry out Duterte’s war on drugs — ICC prosecutor)
Under Article 127 of the Statute:
“[A State’s] withdrawal shall not affect any cooperation with the Court in connection with criminal investigations and proceedings in relation to which the withdrawing State had a duty to cooperate and which were commenced prior to the date on which the withdrawal became effective…”
Source: International Criminal Court, Rome Statute – Art. 127(2).
Bensouda cited in her request the October 2017 decision of the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber on the situation in Burundi, in which an investigation was opened even if the African state withdrew from the Rome Statute during an ongoing preliminary examination. The ICC’s jurisdiction is also not subjected to any time limit. (See The ICC and the Filipino Part 1)
(See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Can Duterte invoke territoriality on matters related to crimes specified in the Rome Statute?, VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Panelo makes wrong, misleading claims on ICC jurisdiction, basis of drug war probe)
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Blocking Property of Certain Persons Associated with the International Criminal Court Designations, Sept. 2, 2020
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List (SDN) Human Readable Lists, June 21, 2021
Department of State official Twitter Account, Today, @SecPompeo delivered remarks on multilateralism…, Sept. 2, 2020
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Executive Order 13298 of June 11, 2020, Accessed June 23, 2021
The White House, Executive Order on the Termination of Emergency With Respect to the International Criminal Court, April 1, 2021
U.S. Department of the Treasury, Termination of Emergency With Respect to the International Criminal Court, April 5, 2021
U.S. Department of State, Ending Sanctions and Visa Restrictions against Personnel of the International Criminal Court, April 2, 2021
International Criminal Court, Statement of the Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on her request to open an investigation of the Situation in the Philippines, June 14, 2021
International Criminal Court, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Accessed June 25, 2021
United Nations, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Philippines Withdrawal, March 18, 2019
International Criminal Court, Rome Statute – Art. 127(2), AccessedJune 24, 2021
International Criminal Court, Decision Pursuant to Article 15 of the Rome Statute on the Authorization of an Investigation into the Situation in the Republic of Burundi, Nov. 9, 2017
International Criminal Court, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities – Burundi, Accessed June 24, 2021
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)