Trump Admin Rips International Criminal Court Decision to Probe U.S. Conduct in Afghanistan

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo / Getty Images
March 6, 2020

The Trump administration will fight efforts by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate American personnel for alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, according to top U.S. officials who described the court's efforts as a dangerous sham.

The ICC ruled on Thursday that it has jurisdiction to investigate and potentially prosecute American service members for alleged war crimes perpetrated in Afghanistan during America's 18-plus years in the country. The decision marks a reversal of the court's initial findings on the matter and prompted fierce pushback from the Trump administration, which maintains the ICC is conducting a politically motivated stunt meant to undermine America's efforts to foster peace in the war-torn nation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ripped the court's decision in comments to reporters at the State Department.

"I received word this morning that the ICC Appeals Chamber authorized an investigation into the activities of the Taliban and U.S. and Afghan personnel there," Pompeo said. "This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body."

The United States is not a member of the ICC and will fight efforts to target American military members, Pompeo said. He added that the timing of the decision showed disregard for ongoing U.S.-led peace efforts with the Taliban.

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

"I will reiterate one more time: The United States is not a party to the ICC, and we will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, unlawful, so-called court," the secretary added.

Gerard Filitti, senior counsel at the Lawfare Project, an independent organization that litigates cases on behalf of the pro-Israel community and others, told the Washington Free Beacon that the court's decision could endanger American military members serving abroad.

"The court previously ruled that such an investigation of absurd and politically motivated claims was not in the interests of justice, and that the court has no jurisdiction over America—which is not even a member of the ICC," Filitti said. "The Appeals Chamber's reversal of this prior ruling places American citizens at risk of arrest and prosecution for honorably serving and defending their country, and severely undermines the legitimacy of the ICC."

The Lawfare Project worked to stop this move, but was stymied by the court, Filitti said.

"Sadly, the ICC has shown itself to be a renegade court willing to subvert the rule of law by exercising jurisdiction it doesn't have, over crimes that don't exist," he said.

Published under: Afghanistan , Mike Pompeo