ICC judges deny prosecution request for Afghan probe

International Criminal Court judges reject prosecutor’s request to investigate alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Public Prosecutor Bensouda attends the trial of Congolese warlord Ntaganda at the ICC in the Hague
In 2016, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a report that found that US armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes [File: Reuters]

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have turned down a request by its chief prosecutor to open a war crimes probe in Afghanistan that could have looked into the possible role of United States forces in wrongdoing.

“The judges decided that an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice,” the Hague-based court said in a statement on Friday.

While the judges said that it was reasonable to consider crimes had been committed in Afghanistan and would be admissible before the ICC, there were a number of conditions that led them to rule against opening an investigation.

They cited the long timeframe between the 2006 preliminary investigation and any follow-up, the changing political scene in Afghanistan since then, and the lack of cooperation the prosecutor had received so far.  

“The current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited,” the statement said.

In 2016, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a report that found that US armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan between May 1, 2003, and December 31, 2014.

Bensouda requested authorisation from the court to open a formal investigation in November 2017.

‘Dead to us’

US National Security Adviser John Bolton has previously called the court “illegitimate” and any prosecution unjust.  “We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC, ” Bolton said in September 2018. 

“We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.” 

In March, the US secretary of state said his country would revoke or deny visas to any ICC personnel seeking to investigate possible war crimes by US forces or allies in Afghanistan. 

Last month, it did just that, cancelling Bensouda’s entry visa.

Source: Al Jazeera