United Nations, April 13: Under pressure from Washington, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has dropped the investigation of alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, a probe directed mainly against US military and intelligence services.
“This is a major international victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law,” US President Donald Trump said in a statement in Washington on Friday after the judges’ ruling was announced in the Hague.
A three-member panel of judges “decided that an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice,” a press release from the court said.
The judges had originally approved the 2017 request from the court’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate the “alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Afghanistan since May 2003 and similar crimes relating to the Afghanistan conflict in other countries that have signed the Rome Statute on the ICC, according to the release.
Reversing their position, they said in their 32-page decision that the political changes in Afghanistan and the lack of cooperation with the prosecutor would have hampered the investigation and prosecution, according to the release.
They, however, said that the prosecutor’s “request establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan”.
Washington has opposed the investigation saying that the court threatened US sovereignty and has not signed the Rome Statute. (Neither has India.)
The US has said that it would not cooperate with the ICC and revoked Bensouda’s visa to enter the country.
Trump, however, said he reiterated “our position that the US holds American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards”.
The US court-martialed several military personal for their excesses in Afghanistan. For example, 11 soldiers were prosecuted in 2011 for the murder of civilians and received sentences ranging from three to 24 years.
In December, Maj Matthew Golsteyn was charged with the murder of an alleged Taliban bomb-maker during a 2010 deployment, but Trump tweeted he would review the case.
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.