Fri, Dec 06, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Prosecutors, victims urge Afghan war crimes probe

AFP, THE HAGUE, Netherlands

International prosecutors and victims of violence in Afghanistan on Wednesday began a “historic” appeal against a decision to block a probe into war crimes.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in April rejected a demand by its chief prosecutor to investigate crimes committed in the nation since 2003.

“This is a historic day for accountability in Afghanistan,” said Fergal Gaynor, a lawyer representing 82 victims, adding that ruling out an investigation “without exaggeration, denies victims everything.”

The US has refused to join the ICC and accuses the court of trying to impinge on national jurisdiction.

Earlier this year it revoked the visa of chief prosecutor ICC Fatou Bensouda, while then-US national security adviser John Bolton last year said that the US would arrest ICC judges if it pursued the Afghan probe.

Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow — attending the hearing in an independent capacity — told the Hague-based court that “the US is both willing and able to prosecute its own cases.”

“There’s no doubt about it. This is a direct move by the [ICC’s] prosecutor on US interests,” Sekulow told reporters.

Sekulow said he was “defending the rights of US soldiers” on behalf of the American Center for Law and Justice.

The court allows numerous parties with a potential legal stake in the case to address it.

He was not there “at the behest of the president or representing the United States,” Sekulow said.

Wednesday’s hearings, the first of three days of proceedings, opened with technical arguments to decide whether victims would be allowed to take part in the appeal.

Prosecutors not only wanted to examine alleged crimes by the Taliban and Afghan soldiers, but also by foreign forces, including US troops and the CIA.

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