ICC rejects investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan
Publish date: 15 April 2019
Issue Number: 4679
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Judges at the International Criminal Court have rejected a request by the court’s top prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, a decision described as a ‘devastating blow for victims’, says a report in The Guardian. In a lengthy written ruling, judges said any investigation and prosecution was unlikely to be successful because the expectation is that those targeted, including the US, Afghan authorities and the Taliban, would not co-operate. The decision could go some way towards easing the tension between the ICC and the Trump administration, which reacted with fury to chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to investigate potential war crimes by US soldiers in Afghanistan. Bensouda said on 5 April that her US visa had been revoked. However, Bensouda’s office implied it was not disappointed with the ruling, saying it would ‘further analyse the (court’s) decision and its implications, and consider all available legal remedies’. But the ICC judges concluded that her ‘request establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan and that potential cases would be admissible before the court’. One line of investigation the ICC prosecutors were following involved the CIA’s alleged mistreatment of detainees. The judgment said: ‘According to the prosecution, there is a 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 the US authorities.’ Human Rights Watch said the decision was ‘a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grave crimes without redress’.