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ICC bows to US on war crimes probe in Afghanistan

April 15, 2019

A RECENT development in the attempt by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a war crimes probe in Afghanistan has laid bare the inherent weakness of the court against states that it cannot bully.

Agence France Presse reports that the ICC appeared “to have turned tail in front of the political might of the United States as it turned down a request to open a war crimes probe in Afghanistan, apparently deterred by a US strong-armed tactic of revoking the chief prosecutor’s visa.”

From its base in The Hague, the ICC issued this statement: “The judges decided that an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice.”

Further, the judges said that, “With its limited budget, the court needs to prioritize resources on activities that would have a better chance to succeed.”

This is a major development that bears heavily on the prestige of the court and its recent show of muscle.

In 2006, ICC prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan since 2003.

In 2017, chief ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked judges to allow a full-blown probe not only into the Taliban and Afghan soldiers, but also international forces, particularly US troops and members of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Angered, the Trump administration said it would deny visas to any ICC members involved in probing US troops; and last week it revoked the visa of the Gambian-born Bensouda.

Trump vowed not to relent on the pressure, saying: “Any attempt to target American, Israeli or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.”

The US has never joined the ICC and does not recognize its authority over American citizens, saying it poses a threat to national sovereignty and that the US has its own robust procedures in place.

In the Afghanistan case, ICC judges said a large number of victims had come forward.

“Notwithstanding the fact that all the relevant requirements are met as regards both jurisdiction and admissibility,” they said, “the current circumstances in Afghanistan…make the prospect of a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited.”

“In the foreseeable absence of additional resources for the coming years in the court’s budget, authorizing the investigation would result in the prosecution having to reallocate financial and human resources,” the judges said.

The Philippines is in a similar boat as the US in defying the ICC’s authority to conduct a preliminary examination of alleged crimes against humanity committed in the Duterte government’s war on drugs.

Malacañang has predictably welcomed the US’ tough line and the ICC‘s evident capitulation.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement: “With the biased and preconceived actions of the ICC, we cannot blame the Filipino people for thinking that it has taken a politically motivated obnoxious path aimed at maligning not just this administration but the very Republic of the Philippines.”

The question now is what will happen to the ICC after this development.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton summed things up memorably:

“We will not cooperate with the ICC. We will provide no assistance to the ICC. And certainly, we will not join ICC. We will let the ICC die on its own.”

The ICC has invited this kind of rudeness because of its tendency to propagandize its actions against states that it can bully, while watching meekly the excesses of powerful states.

African leaders have been their favorite whipping boys.

But bully Trump? But bully Duterte? They must be joking.

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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