President Donald Trump on Friday called the International Criminal Court's decision not to probe alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, including those committed by U.S. troops and the CIA, "a major international victory," and issued a not-so-subtle threat against any entity that would attempt to investigate "American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution."
His statement reads, in full:
Today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced its unanimous rejection of a request to investigate American military and intelligence professionals who served in Afghanistan. This is a major international victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law. We welcome this decision and reiterate our position that the United States holds American citizens to the highest legal and ethical standards. Since the creation of the ICC, the United States has consistently declined to join the court because of its broad, unaccountable prosecutorial powers; the threat it poses to American national sovereignty; and other deficiencies that render it illegitimate. Any attempt to target American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response.
As Common Dreams reported, the ICC's decision to reject the request from ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to probe possible war crimes and crimes against humanity followed bullying efforts by senior members of the Trump administration—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton—who targeted ICC staff over the possible investigation. The administration even revoked Bensouda's entry visa, it was reported last week.
While welcomed by the Trump White House, the court's decision drew outrage from a number of human rights organizations, including the U.K.-based group Reprieve.
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"Today's decision," sad the group's deputy director Katie Taylor, "will be a grave disappointment for survivors of war-on-terror era torture who have waited nearly two decades for justice."
The ACLU, which represents victims of torture in Afghanistan whose cases would have fallen under the probe, was equally outraged.
"It is outrageous that victims of war crimes are far less likely to get justice for well-documented atrocities because of the Trump administration's authoritarian efforts to sabotage an investigation before it could even get started," said Jamil Dakwar, director of the group's human rights program.
"No one except the world's most brutal regimes win when we weaken and sabotage international institutions established to fight impunity and hold the human rights abusers accountable," he said.