ICC decides against Afghanistan war crimes investigation after United States opposition

Leroy Wright
April 13, 2019

After the International Criminal Court (ICC) declined to investigate claims of US atrocities in Afghanistan, US President Donald Trump cheered the decision but said the ICC was "illegitimate" and US and allies beyond its reach.

On April 12, 2019, a pretrial chamber unanimously rejected the November 2017 request by the court's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to investigate alleged crimes against humanity by the Taliban and alleged war crimes by Afghan National Security Forces and the United States military and Central Intelligence Agency.

ICC prosecutors spent a decade examining alleged war crimes by all parties in the conflict in Afghanistan, including the possible role of USA personnel in relation to the detention of suspects, before opening a formal examination in November 2017.

A panel of judges at the International Criminal Court has rejected a request to proceed with investigating possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, including those allegedly involving US armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency. "The judges' logic effectively allows member countries to opt out of cooperating with the court and sends a risky message to all governments that obstructionist tactics can put them beyond the court's reach".

USA administrations have long criticised the ICC, arguing its soldiers could become the subject of political lawsuits.

In its decision, the judges cited the prosecutor's request claiming "there is a reasonable basis to believe that, since 2003, members of the U.S. armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency have committeed the war crimes of torture and crule treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and other forms of sexual violence pursuant to a policy approved by the United States authorities". The court also recognized the absence of investigations and prosecutions of those most responsible for these crimes.

"T$3 he current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited ..."

Bensouda said her office would "consider all available legal remedies" against the decision. National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened the ICC with sanctions last September if they pursued cases against United States citizens.

Kim ready to meet Trump if United States changes stance
Kim has signed vague statements calling for the "complete denuclearization" of the peninsula in his meetings with Mr. The parliament also made a slew of personnel changes on Thursday that bolstered Kim's diplomatic lineup.

Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced visa restrictions on ICC personnel involved in investigations of Americans; Bensouda's US visa has since been revoked.

Human rights groups warned that the decision would have repercussions well beyond Afghanistan.

An investigation, the court said, "would not serve the interests of justice".

Human rights and victims' organizations in Kabul called the ICC ruling "absolutely shocking". It notes as obstacles "changes within the relevant political landscape both in Afghanistan and in key States (both parties and non-parties to the Statute), coupled with the complexity and volatility of the political climate still surrounding the Afghan scenario".

They also cited the long period that had passed since the investigation began in 2006, and said the court needed to "use its resources prioritising activities that would have better chances to succeed".

Sima Samar, the chair of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, strongly supported the probe. In 2018, more than 11,000 civilians were killed or injured in the fighting. Alleged crimes have included the torture of prisoners by American C.I.A. operatives in secret jails known as "black sites". A United Nations report in May 2017 described numerous and credible allegations of torture, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances, among other abuses.

The court has convicted three men for war crimes and crimes against humanity since it was set up in 2002: Congolese warlords Germain Katanga and Thomas Lubanga and a former Islamist rebel who admitted wrecking holy shrines during Mali's 2012 conflict. We will let the ICC die on its own.

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