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The International Criminal Court’s decision not to authorize an investigation into crimes committed in Afghanistan under international law marks a shocking abandonment of victims and will further weaken the court’s credibility.

The ICC’s decision comes just 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 USA forces.

“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,” said Biraj Patnaik, South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

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.

“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,” said Biraj Patnaik.

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

“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,” said Biraj Patnaik.

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

 

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