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Afghanistan War Crimes: ICC Authorizes Investigation

Investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan is an important moment, writes BBC analyst Jonathan Marcus

DESPARDES — The International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorized prosecutors to investigate whether the Taliban, the Afghan military, and U.S. troops committed war crimes in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.

The move paves the way for a complete investigation into crimes, including alleged mass killings of civilians and torture—despite angry opposition from the United States, which has never been a member of the ICC. Afghanistan, which is a member, has said it would prefer local prosecution.

The move comes just days after the United States and the Taliban inked a deal that sets up a U.S. troop drawdown and peace talks between the militant group and the Afghan government, though disputes remain. U.S.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the decision and vowed to protect Americans from it.

“This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable, political institution masquerading as a legal body”, he said.

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

The International Criminal Court has long been criticized for spending far too much of its time looking at the alleged crimes of smaller – often African – nations and shying away from taking cases involving major world players.

So to this extent its investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan is an important moment, writes BBC analyst Jonathan Marcus.

The US is not a signatory of the ICC and does not recognize its authority over American citizens.

Last year the Trump administration imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions on ICC officials.

President Donald Trump has also pardoned troops prosecuted in the US for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

The ruling on Thursday by an appeals chamber reversed a lower court’s decision that stopped an investigation.

The pre-trial panel that rejected Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request last year said the chances of success were low, given the U.S. and Afghan positions.

Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are scheduled to begin next week, but there are already obstacles to peace. President Ashraf Ghani has rejected the group’s demand to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners—though his main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah supports it. The resumption of violence in Afghanistan is also threatening the peace deal, as Stefanie Glinski reports for FP.