The International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorised investigations into alleged war crimes by US troops and Sunni fundamentalist group Taliban in Afghanistan, triggering potential confrontation with the American government.
The decision on Thursday by the ICC Appeals Chamber means that prosecutor Fatou Bensouda can go ahead and investigate the conduct of US troops since May 2003 when they entered Afghanistan ostensibly to fight the Taliban.
It also means the Court had overturned an earlier decision of a trial chamber which disallowed the probe after finding that it could not serve justice.
“The Office will now proceed to conduct a diligent and thorough investigation into this Situation. The investigation will be independent, impartial and objective. This is what the Office is legally mandated to do, and it is what we are committed to doing,” said Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, adding that there won’t be timeliness on how long investigations could take.
“All the decisions that I, as Prosecutor, will take will be strictly in accordance with my mandate, as stipulated in the Rome Statute establishing the ICC,” she said in a statement.
But the move could bring tension with Washington, which is not a member of the ICC and has a law that authorises its security forces to rescue any of its nationals arrested and presented to the ICC for trial.
The decision also comes just five days after Washington announced a peace deal with the Taliban.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately released a statement warning that no US troops will be investigated.
“An ICC investigation with respect to US personnel is illegitimate and unjustified. The United States will take the necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and to protect our people,” Pompeo said.
The Trump Administration had previously denied Bensouda a visa to the US when she sought to travel there last year.