Senior ICC judges authorise Afghanistan war crimes inquiry

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Fatou Bensouda, the international criminal court’s chief prosecutor, requested the go-ahead for the inquiry. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/EPA

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Senior judges at the international criminal court have authorised an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, overturning an earlier rejection of the inquiry.
The ICC investigation will look at actions by US, Afghan and Taliban troops. It is possible, however, that allegations relating to UK troops could emerge in that process.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, on Thursday attacked the ruling by the ICC’s appeals chamber as “reckless” and said it would outline measures in the coming weeks to prevent US citizens being brought before the court.

“This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body,” Pompeo told a news conference following the ruling.

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“All the more reckless for this ruling to come just days after the United States signed a historic peace deal on Afghanistan, which is the best chance for peace in a generation.”

The ICC judges also approved that the scope of the investigation should include CIA black sites operated in Poland, Lithuania, and Romania, where detainees were taken.

The court had last year rejected the request to open an investigation and said any prosecution was unlikely to be successful because the expectation was that those targeted, including the US, Afghan authorities and the Taliban, would not cooperate.

Pompeo said at the time that Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by US forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, later confirmed that her US visa had been revoked.

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