Judges reject Afghanistan probe; cite lack of cooperation

ICC rejects request to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan

The ICC's decision comes just days after the United States, which had already issued threats to the court, revoked the chief prosecutor's visa because the investigation involved crimes committed by us forces.

In its decision, the judges cited the prosecutor's request claiming "there is a reasonable basis to believe that, since 2003, members of the USA 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 U.S. authorities".

Bensouda, who started looking into crimes in Afghanistan in 2006, did not immediately comment on the rejection, which she can appeal.

"The chamber hereby decides that an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice and accordingly rejects the request", the decision said.

Trump administration claims that the judges' decision was a victory for this policy and the rule of law disregards the impact it will have on the tens of thousands of victims in Afghanistan who will be denied a path to justice, Human Rights Watch said.

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.

Angered, President Donald Trump's administration said it would deny visas to any ICC members involved in probing USA troops and, last week, it revoked the visa of the Gambian-born Bensouda.

Trump, however, said he reiterated "our position that the USA holds American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards".

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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.

Human Rights Watch said the ruling establishes a unsafe precedent.

Since the creation of the ICC, the United States has consistently declined to join the court because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers; the threat it poses to American national sovereignty; and other deficiencies that render it illegitimate.

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.

He vowed not to relent on the pressure, saying: "Any attempt to target American, Israeli or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response".

The judges' decision appeared to end the quest for accountability for victims of abuses following the US invasion of Afghanistan.

The ICC has so far has charged or tried only people from the developing countries although the Afghanistan investigation was meant to show that it could also act against western countries. "It sends a unsafe message to perpetrators that they can put themselves beyond the reach of the law just by being uncooperative". "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".

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