ICC Judges Turn Down Request for Afghanistan War Crimes Probe

In 2016 ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a report that found that US armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes

The exterior view of the headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.

The pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague rejected the request of the prosecutor for an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Afghanistan, the ICC announced on Friday.

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 United States military and Central Intelligence Agency.

"This is a major worldwide victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law", the White House said in a statement, referring to the ICC decision to reject the request to investigate the actions of United States military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan.

ICC prosecutors spent a decade examining alleged war crimes by all parties in the conflict in Afghanistan, including the possible role of United States personnel in relation to the detention of suspects, before opening a formal examination in November 2017. Bensouda's office noted this in its statement about the decision and said it would "further analyse the decision and its implications, and consider all available legal remedies".

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 US personnel in relation to the detention of suspects.

The U.S. warned it would carry out tougher measures if the case went ahead, including imposing economic sanctions on the court.

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Patrick Baudouin, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, called the rejection a "dark day for justice" and a "shocking decision, which is based on a deeply flawed reasoning".

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

She also said that the Taliban and other insurgent groups have killed more than 17,000 civilians since 2009, including some 7,000 targeted killings. Alleged crimes have included the torture of prisoners by American C.I.A. operatives in secret jails known as "black sites".

"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.

"Afghanistan has been witness to heinous crimes committed with near-absolute impunity, across the country, for more than a decade and a half". "With this decision, people will lose hope of getting justice and they might take revenge, fueling conflict in the country", she told The Associated Press.

The time elapsed since the opening of a preliminary probe in 2006, Afghanistan's changing political scene and the "lack of political cooperation the prosecutor has received" was likely to grow scarcer should an investigation proceed, the judges said.

"In the foreseeable absence of additional resources for the coming years in the court's budget, authorising the investigation would result in the prosecution having to reallocate financial and human resources", the judges said.

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