6 March 2020   Leave a comment

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced yesterday that it would begin an investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the Afghanistan war by the Afghanistan government, the US, and the Taliban. The ICC was created by the Rome Statute in 1998 which went into effect in 2002. It was charged with the responsibility to address crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. Since its creation:

  • There have thus far been 27 cases before the Court, with some cases having more than one suspect.  
  • ICC judges have issued 34 arrest warrants. Thanks to cooperation from States, 16 people have been detained in the ICC detention centre and have appeared before the Court. 15 people remain at large. Charges have been dropped against 3 people due to their deaths.
  • ICC judges have also issued 9 summonses to appear.
  • The judges have issued 8 convictions and 4 acquittals. ​

The US never signed the Rome Statute. The ICC Charter defers to national systems of justice to first investigate and prosecute war crime. Only if national authorities do not conduct such investigations and prosecutions will the ICC intervene. The US claims that its national systems of justice are more than adequate and that it therefore does not need the oversight of an international body. But the US rejected the ICC’s authority to investigate possible war crimes in Afghanistan and the rejection sought also to undermine the authority of the ICC:

“Today, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber authorized an investigation into the alleged activities of the Taliban and U.S. and Afghan personnel related to Afghanistan.  This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body.

“It is all the more reckless for this ruling to come just days after the United States signed a historic peace deal on Afghanistan – the best chance for peace in a generation.  Indeed, the Afghan government, itself, pleaded with the ICC to not take this course.  But the ICC politicians had other goals.

“The United States is not a party to the ICC, and we will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, so-called court.

“This is yet another reminder of what happens when multilateral bodies lack oversight and responsible leadership, and become instead a vehicle for political vendettas.  The ICC has today stumbled into a sorry affirmation of every denunciation made by its harshest critics over the past three decades.

In the past, the US has barred representatives of the ICC from entering the US by denying them visas. Human Rights groups such as Amnesty International have condemned the US decision and many celebrated the ICC’s decision as a step forward in the defense of human rights.

Turkey and Russia have agreed upon cease-fire lines in the Syrian province of Idlib which consolidates Syrian gains at the expense of Turkish interests. But it seems clear that Turkish President Erdogan had little choice but to accept the losses:

“Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and a former Turkish diplomat, said Erdogan had to make concessions to Putin because the alternative – a return to military conflict – would be ‘a lose-lose scenario for Turkey’.

“Russia’s air control over Idlib, although challenged by Ankara when it carried out waves of drone assaults on Syrian forces and shot down three Syrian warplanes, would have left Turkish troops exposed to lethal firepower.

“At least 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike in Idlib last week, the deadliest attack suffered by the Turkish military in nearly three decades.

“’Turkey sat at the negotiating table with this military vulnerability,’ Ulgen told Reuters. ‘Achieving a ceasefire was important from that aspect, but this ceasefire had a cost.’”

It is likely that President Erdogan now regrets his decision to demand the removal of US troops from Syria. There is no likelihood that US troops would have engaged Russian troops, but Syrian President Assad could not have afforded to take such a risk. Erdogan was playing checkers but President Putin, as always, was playing chess.

Posted March 6, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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