Published: Sun, April 14, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

ICC rejects request to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan

ICC rejects request to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan

Trump administration officials took a victory lap Friday after the International Criminal Court decided not to proceed with an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, hailing it as vindication of their insistence that the court has no jurisdiction over USA forces who might have been implicated in a probe.

Had the court chose to proceed with a formal investigation, it would have examined the actions of the Taliban and Afghan government as well as the United States.

The judges pointed to the time that had elapsed since the opening of the preliminary probe more than a decade ago, Afghanistan's changing political scene and the "lack of political cooperation" with Bensouda, which was likely to worsen should an investigation proceed.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the decision "a major global victory", and denounced the worldwide court for its "broad, unaccountable, prosecutorial powers", as well as for what he considers its threat to American sovereignty.

In 2006, Bensouda's predecessor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, opened an examination into 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.

The ICC's decision comes after the Trump administration threatened to take away the visas of officials seeking an investigation. "We welcome this decision and reiterate our position that the United States holds American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards".

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 USA, were expected to cooperate.

"The U.S. has not joined the ICC because of its broad, unaccountable powers, and its threat to our sovereignty", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on March 15.

In 2017, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought authorization to begin the investigation.

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on "The Lead", Pompeo reiterated that the ICC "has no jurisdiction" over the US.

Human Rights Watch said the ruling establishes a risky precedent.

While welcomed by the Trump White House, the court's decision drew outrage from a number of human rights organizations, including the United Kingdom -based group Reprieve. She said that the groups allegedly responsible for possible crimes are the Taliban and other armed groups, Afghan forces, and US personnel.

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.

Explaining their unanimous decision, the three ICC pre-trial chamber judges said such an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice". "This sends a risky message to perpetrators that they can put themselves beyond the reach of the law just by being uncooperative". The long record makes clear that both Republican and Democratic presidents have understood that the treaty underlying the International Criminal Court wouldnt stand a snowballs chance in the Sudan of getting ratified by the United States Senate.

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