Published: Sun, April 14, 2019
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

ICC decides against Afghanistan war crimes investigation after USA opposition

ICC decides against Afghanistan war crimes investigation after USA opposition

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.

They also cited the long period of time 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".

In an unusual ruling, the ICC judges said Bensouda's case seemed to have met the court's criteria for jurisdiction and admissibility, but given an array of practical considerations that made chances of success remote, it did not make sense to pursue it further.

In issuing its ruling not to proceed with the investigation, ICC judges said the investigation was unlikely to further the pursuit of justice because neither Afghanistan, nor the US, were expected to cooperate.

In 2016, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a report that found that USA armed forces and the Central Intelligence Agency may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan between May 1, 2003, and December 31, 2014.

In a statement released by the White House, the Trump administration hailed the decision not to investigate US personnel as "a major worldwide victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law".

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

Some human rights advocates are slamming the decision as a risky precedent.

"Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response", the US president said.

Human Rights Watch on Friday called the ICC's decision a "devastating blow" to the victims of human rights violations.

"With its decision today, the International Criminal Court sends a unsafe message: that bullying wins and that the powerful won't be held to account", Center for Constitutional Rights lawyer Katherine Gallagher said, according to The New York Times.

In a phone interview from Kabul, she told The Associated Press that it risks emboldening the perpetrators of crimes in Afghanistan, who were "at least a little fearful" of facing justice.

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In a statement, the court said Bensouda's request had established "a reasonable basis" that crimes had been committed, but its pre-trial chamber unanimously rejected the request because of the likely lack of "cooperation" the ICC would receive from relevant parties, which would include Afghan authorities, the Taliban and the United States.

In a further sign of USA rejection of the effort, Bensouda's visa to the US was revoked earlier this month.

"Why it happened today as opposed to some other day I think it's just the final l crash of an inadequate process", Bolton continued, suggesting the decision had more to do with the weaknesses in the case to investigate than the USA actions.

The human rights situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated as the conflict has intensified in recent years.

The US has not ratified the Rome Statute, the piece of global law that established the ICC in 2002 in order to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of state aggression.

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