Outrage Over ICC Decision to Drop US From Probe of War Crimes in Afghanistan

The decision by the ICC’s chief prosecutor to exclude alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan has drawn the ire of some human rights groups.

U.S. Army soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment scan their area May 2, 2012, near Combat Outpost Sabari, Afghanistan, beginning a multi-day air assault mission near the Pakistani border of eastern Afghanistan’s Khost province. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts)

By Andrea Germanos
Common Dreams

A Monday announcement from the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor saying his office is seeking approval to resume its investigation into potential war crimes in Afghanistan committed by the Taliban and the Islamic State—but excluding alleged atrocities committed by U.S. forces—sparked a flurry of outrage from human rights defenders. 

“It seems there is no end to the betrayal of Afghans—now so many victims of torture and other abuses by U.S. and former Afghan government forces have been told there is no justice for you,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch, tweeted Monday in response to the announcement.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on March 5, 2020 overturned its previous decision and authorized then-Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to formally probe crimes as far back as 2002 committed by members of the U.S. armed forces, the CIA, the Taliban, affiliated armed groups, and Afghan government forces. It would also have covered crimes committed at so-called CIA black sites in Poland, Lithuania, and Romania.

The prospect of the probe elicited fierce backlash from the Trump administration, which slapped retaliatory sanctions on Bensouda and another top ICC official.

The investigation was deferred last year, however, when the Afghan government in March sought to take on the investigation itself. But given the “significant change of circumstances” in Afghanistan including the absent prospect of “adequate and effective proceedings” to be carried out by Afghan authorities, current ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan said in a statement Monday, a resumed investigation carried out by the ICC is warranted.

At the same time, Khan pointed to “the limited resources available to my office relative to the scale and nature of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court that are being or have been committed in various parts of the world” as motivating his decision to narrow the scope of the Afghan probe to “crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban and the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (‘IS-K’) and to deprioritize other aspects of this investigation.”

“The gravity, scale, and continuing nature of alleged crimes by the Taliban and the Islamic State, which include allegations of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, targeted extrajudicial executions, persecution of women and girls, crimes against children, and other crimes affecting the civilian population at large, demand focus and proper resources from my office,” he said, “if we are to construct credible cases capable of being proved beyond reasonable doubt in the courtroom.”

Khan’s announcement drew criticism from Katherine Gallagher, a human rights attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is representing victims in the ICC investigation into the situation in Afghanistan.

In a Monday Twitter thread, Gallagher wrote that she was “stunned” and only found out about the development from Khan’s public press statement despite meeting with the prosecutor’s office “about why it should prioritize investigation of U.S. torture—war crimes and crimes against humanity that were committed or furthered on scores of member states territories—for a decade.”

While acknowledging the “deeply problematic” under-resourcing of the ICC which Khan referenced, Gallagher said the parameters of the investigation laid out fall well short of the justice Afghan victims deserve.

“I fully support re-opening the investigation into crimes by the Taliban (and other forces) in Afghanistan—it should never have been halted by ‘deferral,'” said Gallagher. “Afghan civilians have only known impunity and this has fueled further crimes, especially against the most vulnerable.”

However, she added, the “shuttering of [the] investigation of U.S. torture committed on ICC states territory (Afghanistan, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Jordan, Djibouti) is deeply flawed. Allowing powerful states to get away with multi-year, multi-continent torture against so many feeds impunity for all.”

This article is from Common Dreams.

 Support CN’s
Fall Fund Drive!

Donate securely with PayPal


Or securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:



14 comments for “Outrage Over ICC Decision to Drop US From Probe of War Crimes in Afghanistan

  1. September 30, 2021 at 07:14

    This is another blow to the credibility of the International Criminal Court. This has always been known especially from the African Continent’s perspective that,that Court isn’t about Justice but settle scores against poor,weak,and non ‘compliant’ leaders/States. If it were for Justice at all, United States,United Kingdom with their leaders George W Bush and Tony Blaire would’ve been arraigned before that Court already. But this latest decision by the Chief Prosecutor has discredited it further tanking it’s already bad image. So,until ICC investigates and prosecutes powerful countries like U.S and UK for the crimes they’ve committed since the start of the 21st century,,the ICC will remain a court against the weak.

  2. Joe Wallace
    September 29, 2021 at 15:56

    From the article: “Khan pointed to ‘the limited resources available to my office relative to the scale and nature of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court that are being or have been committed in various parts of the world’ as motivating his decision to narrow the scope of the Afghan probe to ‘crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban and the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (‘IS-K’) and to deprioritize other aspects of this investigation.’”

    What this means is: We are sufficiently funded to conduct a fair, open and impartial investigation, as long as we don’t look HERE. Looking HERE is not a priority, because if we looked HERE our resources would be quickly exhausted.

  3. Zhu
    September 29, 2021 at 04:35

    War Crimes trials are sometimes pretty stramge. The Soviet war crimes trials held in Khabarovsk were the only ones who tried any of Japan’s Unit 731 doctors, who had carried out the most vile medical “experiments” against Chinese civilians. The US Army gave most of them immunity in exchange for giving all their experimental results to the US Army.

    If chance ever takes you to Harbin, visit the Unit 731 Museum. It’s funded but the Japanese government, so they can’t claim it’s all fake or exaggerated or any of the usual excuses.

  4. mgr
    September 28, 2021 at 08:31

    Death as a world leader by a thousand cuts. Once again, it’s “do as I say, not as I do.” “All that rule of law stuff is for others. We’re above that, we are exceptional and the rules simply do not apply to us.” Of curse, this kind of hypocrisy is lost on no one. Bad actors will use it as justification for their own actions while the allies you want simply look on in quiet disgust.

    More and more, we see the US issuing orders but ever fewer respond. The American empire is falling under the weight of its own banality. Force of arms is ultimately limited, note Afghanistan, one of many now. Moral authority is far more powerful but it requires the hard work of true integrity. America is simply no longer up to it, perhaps it never was but now even the pretense has become a bridge to far. As Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

  5. Zhu
    September 27, 2021 at 18:27

    I’ve sometimes thought that all US presidents since about 1950 deserved to hang for war crimes, crimes against humanity. Of course, it’s only rhetoric. Nothing ever happens to them.

    • robert e williamson jr
      September 28, 2021 at 12:54

      With all due respect to Zhu I have to question your all inclusive thought. JFK inherited Vietnam and he damn sure planned to get out. Those intentions among a few others got him murdered. The very sad fact is that the one president who took direct decisive actions to change the face of American was killed for his efforts.

      So much for progress toward peace!

      The problem at the UN may very well be a lack of funds, I don’t know about that. But here is what I do know. And I couldn’t agree more that those responsible for this 20 year war need to be held accountable. In fact I have a proposition for all those commenting here. Go watch this hearing from this am on the Afghanistan withdrawal.

      More cowardice from democrats allowing republicans to brow beat them on this action. All except Tammy Duckworth who seems to have a plan.

      I’m so angry I can’t see straight. Time after time the question is why after Vietnam and twenty years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq haven’t we learned anything.

      I don’t know where this “We” comes from. These creeps must have turds in their pockets.

      What I have learned so far is that when Mickimat is allowed call the shots, a republican president tells lies on prime time TV and the war is about about contractors profits, bingo another lesson.

      I learned it so what gives.

      Be enlarge the majority of the Congress are gutless wonders. They all need to stand up in unison and repeat “We failed Americans. Our government failed us because they were to chicken shit to guide America from an all out war.

      Seems clear to me that wars fought for profit are always lost. Something that could have been learned long ago.,

      But WTF do I know?

      Thanks CN

  6. Lou Cassivi
    September 27, 2021 at 17:45

    What outrages me equally is that this international cheating con game garners any credibility. It’s nothing more than another devasting tool of the white supremacist west, led – of course – by the land of the free and the home of the brave. Only the US can decide who the judges are, and who the guilty are.

  7. William F Johnson
    September 27, 2021 at 17:15

    Long as U.S. can sanction the ICC, well, what does that tell you? The ICC is basically a NATO court and which country runs NATO? People seeking an end to war crimes or prosecution of same do not have any court in which grievances can be tried. The UN has no authority, so what are peoples to do?

  8. Jeff Harrison
    September 27, 2021 at 16:03

    Yeah. It’s pretty sad, isn’t it? As much as I detest the man, I’m thinkin’ that Revoltin’ Bolton is right about getting rid of half the UN and nobody’d notice.

  9. Andrew Thomas
    September 27, 2021 at 16:02

    If any more evidence is needed that the ICC needs to dissolve itself and go away, I don’t know what it would be.

    • Dfnslblty
      September 28, 2021 at 09:24

      Rather it is the usa which must “go away” — cease playing bully, and allow ICC to do its work.
      usa créâtes thé chaos, and demands impunity.
      Evident in the prosecutor’s statement is limited resources which immorally can only investigate we weak!

  10. rosemerry
    September 27, 2021 at 15:28

    And why not? the USA’s crimes for decades, centuries have been ignored when any “history” is written by such experts as Samantha Power, or “papers of record” like the NYT. “The Politics of Genocide” 2010 by Edward S Herman and David Peterson investigates and explains so many cases where “our crimes” are not considered “massacres” and certainly not “genocide” whereas “the bad guys” (anyone else, decided by us to be the enemy) can be accused. Media and some Justice(!) departments follow the same path to ensure the story remains as they concocted it.

  11. John Puma
    September 27, 2021 at 15:01

    Also, apparently, “the ICC’s chief prosecutor” has received an offer he/she simply can’t refuse!

  12. DW Bartoo
    September 27, 2021 at 14:39

    Thus the ICC reveals that its members have been sufficiently terrorized, by the U$ and, further makes clear that truth and justice have been erased as far as other U$ enterprises of terror are concerned.

    When a court, for whatever “reasons”, makes mock of actual justice and any search for the truth as it relates to the hegemonic terror of a war against a nation and its people, who in no way threatened or harmed, in any fashion, the hegemon, then we see acquiesce to military might and clandestine behavior, including torture and the murder of huge numbers of non-combatants, such that it may no longer be pretended that there is effective International Law.

    Some U$isns may feel proud of such blatant raw power masquerading as “spreading democracy” and righteously “protecting” girls and women.

    Shame is far more appropriate.

    Yet both media and academia will respond with deafening silence while the coffers of “defense” both military and “intelligence” will be filled to overflowing by a fully supportive political class whose only “resistance” will be tearful little chimings of “present”.

    Anger is an appropriate response.

    Yet let that anger be directed not at the timid, but at those who frighten timid jurists into absurd compliance.

Comments are closed.