ICC Judges Turn Down Request for Afghanistan War Crimes Probe

International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (center) would continue to pursue her duties "without fear or favor" despite the ban, her office said.(Photo by Agence France Presse)
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (center) would continue to pursue her duties "without fear or favor" despite the ban, her office said.(Photo by Agence France Presse)

Judges at the International Criminal Court Friday turned down a request to open a war crimes probe in Afghanistan, a week after Washington revoked the court's chief prosecutor's visa over the case.

"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.

Fatou Bensouda's U.S. visa was revoked over a possible probe involving American soldiers' actions since 2003 in the bloody Afghan conflict.

Bensouda in late 2017 asked judges to give her permission to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan committed by the Taliban, Afghan government forces and international forces including U.S. troops.

The United States has never joined the ICC and does not recognize its authority over American citizens, saying it poses a threat to national sovereignty.

Washington also argues that it has its own robust procedures in place to deal with U.S. troops who engage in misconduct.

Judges said Friday that "notwithstanding the fact that all the relevant requirements are met as regards both jurisdiction and admissibility... the current circumstances in Afghanistan... make the prospect of a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited."

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.

The court, which operates on a limited budget, also needed to prioritize its resources on "activities that would have a better chance to succeed," the judges said.

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