International court says investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan can proceed

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Thursday ruled that an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan military and U.S. forces may proceed.

The decision, which comes days after the United States agreed to pull its troops from the long-running conflict, overturns a lower court decision and opens the way for prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to launch a full investigation, despite U.S. government opposition.

“The Appeals chamber considers it appropriate to…authorise the investigation,” said presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski, noting that Bensouda’s preliminary examination had found reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan and that the court has jurisdiction.

Afghanistan is a member of the Hague-based court, though the United States is not and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions against ICC employees a year ago.

A pretrial panel last year had rejected Bensouda’s 2017 request to open an investigation, arguing that the odds of success were low, given the passage of time, a lack of cooperation from Kabul and Washington, and because it would not “serve the interests of justice.”

But Hofmanski said Bensouda should proceed and not limit her investigation to preliminary findings, as that would “erroneously inhibit the prosecution’s truth-seeking function.”

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