Afghanistan: ICC refusal to authorise investigation 'a shocking abandonment of victims'

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision not to authorise an investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan under international law marks a shocking abandonment of victims and will further weaken the court’s credibility, Amnesty International said today.

The ICC’s decision comes days after the United States, which had already issued threats to the court, revoked the chief prosecutor’s visa because the investigation involved crimes committed by US forces.

The ICC judges claimed that their decision was influenced by the prospect of investigators having to deal with challenging investigations, a lack of ready state cooperation and budgetary constraints.

Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International, said:

“Afghanistan has been witness to heinous crimes committed with near-absolute impunity, across the country, for more than a decade-and-a-half. The ICC’s decision today is a shocking abandonment of the victims which will weaken the court’s already-questionable credibility.

“None of the reasons given by the ICC judges justifies this decision. The gravest crimes can only ever be investigated in trying circumstances. If anything, the court’s reluctance to proceed with investigations in the face of such constraints only reveals its overreach and signals its weak resolve.

“Coming so closely on the heels of a series of unhinged attacks by senior USA officials, and following long and unexplainable delays up to this point, the decision ultimately will be seen as a craven capitulation to Washington’s bullying and threats.

“The court has a moral and legal duty to reach out to the victims of crimes in Afghanistan and explain this decision.”

The refusal of the Pre-Trial Chamber to authorise the investigation does not preclude the Prosecutor presenting a new request based on new facts or evidence regarding the same situation. However, the fear that the ICC has acted on political considerations - rather than legal ones - inspires little hope.

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