International Court Allows Afghanistan War Crimes Probe After Nixing Ruling

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has ruled that the prosecutor can launch an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan, including possible atrocities committed by U.S. forces.

“[The court] considers it appropriate to amend the appeal decision to the effect that the prosecutor is authorized to commence an investigation,” Judge Piotr Hofmanski, president of the Appeals Chamber, said in rendering the judgement on March 5.

In April 2019, judges in a lower court unanimously turned down a request made by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to proceed with a probe into crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, Afghan security forces, and the U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

In a ruling condemned by victims and rights groups, the judges said that an inquiry “would not serve the interests of justice” because it would likely fail due to lack of cooperation.

Human Rights Watch warned that the decision sent “a dangerous message to perpetrators that they can put themselves beyond the reach of the law just by being uncooperative.”

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed the lower court ruling when it was announced, calling it “a major international victory…for the rule of law.”

Bensouda asked judges in November 2017 to initiate an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since May 2003.

Washington has said it would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate the allegations of abuses.

The United States is among dozens of countries that have not ratified the Rome treaty that established the ICC in 2002.

U.S. forces and other foreign troops intervened in Afghanistan 18 years ago following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and overthrew the Taliban government.

There are roughly 13,000 U.S. troops in the country, as well as European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

More than 32,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

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