ICC rejects request to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan

The world criminal court states that such probe "would not serve the interests of justice"

Photo: AFP The ICC building

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 CIA. This comes in response to a request from ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in 2017, a prospect that US officials have strongly criticised.

In 2017 Bensouda submitted more than 20,000 pages of information to the court in which she said that the groups allegedly responsible for possible crimes are the Taliban and other armed groups, Afghan forces, and US personnel.

"There is reasonable basis to believe that, since May 2003, members of the US armed forces and the CIA have committed the war crimes of torture and cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and other forms of sexual violence pursuant to a policy approved by US authorities," she claimed.

Yet, in their unanimous decision released Friday, the judges at the ICC rejected the request because "the current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited." The decision also noted that the prosecutor hasn't been able to secure cooperation from the parties, making it very unlikely the probe would succeed. A significant amount of time has passed since many of the crimes were allegedly committed, the judges said, and there's a need for the ICC "to use its resources prioritizing activities that would have a better changes to succeed."

Explaining their decision, the three ICC pre-trial chamber judges also said such an investigation "would not serve the interests of justice".

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

"ICC judges' decision to reject an investigation in Afghanistan is a devastating blow for victims," Human Rights Watch's Param-Preet Singh said in a statement. "It sends a dangerous message to perpetrators that they can put themselves beyond the reach of the law just by being uncooperative."

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