Global court judges reject Afghanistan investigation

The ICC decision shows justice is dead for Afghanistan

Judges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, have rejected a request by the court's prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and alleged crimes by us forces linked to the conflict.

As Common Dreams reported, the ICC's decision to reject the request from ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to probe possible war crimes and crimes against humanity followed bullying efforts by senior members of the Trump administration-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton-who targeted ICC staff over the possible investigation.

It did also reference “the lack of cooperation that the Prosecutor has received.” Plus it said such cooperation “is likely to go scarcer should an investigation be authorized, ” thus “hampering the chances of successful investigation and prosecution.” It also noted “the need for the Court to use its resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to succeed.”.

In addition, "the current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited", the judges said in a 2-1 ruling. "If anything, the court's reluctance to proceed with investigations in the face of such constraints only reveals its overreach and signals its weak resolve", said Biraj Patnaik.

The evidence that the CIA and US forces had committed war crimes in Afghanistan includes the 2014 US Senate Intelligence Committee report, which drew upon the CIA's own records to document human rights abuses that the agency committed in a global network of secret prisons; reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross; and findings by the European Court of Human Rights.

However, the judges found Bensouda's request "establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan", according to the release.

Human Rights Watch called the court's decision "a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grave crimes without redress".

The ICC is known to be considering whether to act on a request by the Palestinian Authority to investigate Israeli officials for war crimes.

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 USA military and Central Intelligence Agency.

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.

"The United States will always protect Allied and American military and civilian personnel from living in fear from unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation", Pompeo said in a statement.

Bolton made clear that the administration's opposition to the court is unequivocal and based on a belief that it inherently conflicts with the U.S. Constitution.

President Donald Trump said that it was "a major worldwide victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law".

It comes a week after the U.S. revoked ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's visa. "Getting countries to cooperate with the court is a real challenge, but this decision is an invitation to governments to create hurdles to stop the ICC from acting". It has focused on African countries, which has been a source of criticism.

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