September 17, 2019 / 4:39 PM / a month ago

Prosecutor can appeal ICC decision blocking Afghan investigation

The Hague (Reuters) - The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court was granted permission on Tuesday to appeal a ruling by judges that blocked an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, a case that has put the court on a collision course with the Trump administration.

In April, just days after the United States’ government revoked the visa of prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, ICC judges rejected her request to open an investigation into alleged atrocities in the war in Afghanistan, including allegedly by U.S. troops.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the decision “a major international victory,” and denounced the international court for its “broad, unaccountable, prosecutorial powers”, as well as for what he considers its threat to American sovereignty.

But the ruling was condemned by victims and human rights groups who have advocated for an inquiry, saying the timing made it look like the court had given in to political pressure.

On Tuesday, an ICC statement said judges had decided to allow the prosecutor to proceed with the next step in the appeal process.

The prosecutor has previously sought to examine possible atrocities by the Taliban, Afghan government forces, and U.S. forces, mostly between 2003-2004.

They cited preliminary evidence suggesting international forces in Afghanistan, including U.S. Central Intelligence Agency employees, had carried out illegal physical and psychological abuse on detainees.

Tuesday’s decision removes a hurdle for appeal, but does not indicate the court will change course and allow a full probe into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Alex Richardson

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