ICC judges reject request for Afghanistan war crimes probe

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Just days after the United States government revoked the visa of the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, the ICC judges rejected her request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes by American forces in Afghanistan.

The decision on Friday, which prosecutor Fatou Bensouda may appeal and which angered human rights groups, means that neither the Taliban, the Afghan government, nor the United States will face any investigation at the international court for alleged crimes, which dated mostly from 2003-2004.

In an unusual ruling, judges said Bensouda’s case seemed to have met the court’s criteria for jurisdiction and admissibility, but given an array of practical considerations that made chances of success remote, it did not make sense to pursue it further.

They cited a failure to gather evidence at an early stage, a lack of cooperation from governments involved, and the likely costs as prohibitive.

In addition, “the current circumstances of the situation in Afghanistan are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited,” the judges said in a 2-1 ruling.

“An investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice and (the chamber) accordingly rejects the request,” the judges said.

Bensouda said her office would “consider all available legal remedies” against the decision.

International legal experts saw the ruling in part as a recognition of the realities the court faces in conducting prosecutions.