Facing hurdles from US, war crimes judges reject Afghanistan probe


President Donald Trump on Friday called the International Criminal Court's decision not to probe alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, including those committed by USA troops and the Central Intelligence Agency, "a major international victory", and issued a not-so-subtle threat against any entity that would attempt to investigate "American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution".

Due to its prioritization of investigative inquiries, the court has decided that pursuing this investigation would not be an efficient use of its resources.

"The court has a moral and legal duty to reach out to the victims of crimes in Afghanistan and explain this decision", Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. The court noted that the political situation since 2006, the time of the preliminary examination, has changed rapidly in Afghanistan.

In a statement released by the White House, President Trump hailed the decision "a major global victory" and vowed a "swift and vigorous response" to attempted prosecution of any "American, Israeli, or allied personnel".

In early April, Bensouda's office and the State Department confirmed that her entry visa to the USA had been revoked.

The Trump administration welcomed the move, which came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in mid-March that the U.S. would deny or revoke visas for ICC staff in response to the potential investigation.

Trump, however, said he reiterated "our position that the United States holds American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards".

The US government has threatened to block any potential ICC investigation that might include US nationals or nationals of US allies.

Human Rights Watch called the court's decision "a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grave crimes without redress".

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This update comes just a week after the United States revoked entry visas to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who had been examining on the court's behalf the possibility of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by the United States.

"The judges' logic effectively allows states to opt out on their obligation to cooperate with the court's investigation", said Param-Preet Singh, the group's associate global justice director.

"The threat it poses to American national sovereignty; and other deficiencies... render it illegitimate", Trump said.

Human Rights Watch said the ruling establishes a risky precedent.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.

"If you are responsible for the proposed ICC investigation of USA personnel in connection with the situation in Afghanistan, you should not assume that you still have or will get a visa or will be permitted to enter the United States", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told ICC employees March 15, TIME reported. "This sends a unsafe message to perpetrators that they can put themselves beyond the reach of the law just by being uncooperative".

The ICC was established by a United Nations treaty in 2002, and has been ratified by 123 countries, including the UK.