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AFGHANS who say they were tortured and mistreated by US forces have appealed against a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to not investigate war crimes committed during the US occupation.
The ICC decision was made in April under pressure from Washington after US President Donald Trump and National Security Adviser John Bolton warned that members of the ICC could face sanctions if investigations into alleged US war crimes went ahead.
Earlier this year, the US revoked an entry visa issued to ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who had requested the war crimes investigation in 2017, thus blocking her from entering the country.
Despite rejecting calls for the investigation, the ICC found “there is a reasonable basis to believe that the incidents underlying the request have occurred.”
A 2016 report by the ICC accused the US military of torturing at least 61 prisoners in Afghanistan during the invasion and subsequent occupation.
The report also accused the CIA of subjecting at least 27 prisoners to torture, including rape, at secret prison sites in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania.
Mr Trump hailed the decision not to investigate the allegations as “a major international victory.” He threatened the ICC with a “swift and vigorous response” if it tried to prosecute citizens of the US or its allies.
The appeal was lodged by human rights group Reprieve and the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
They said the decision by the “court of last resort” was “devastating” for the six Afghan victims as it left them unable “to contribute to a process that seeks to end impunity and contribute to the prevention of crimes, to know the truth and to request reparations.”
Reprieve deputy director Katie Taylor said: “Survivors of war-on-terror-era torture have waited 17 years for some semblance of justice, which has so far been wholly denied.
CCR spokeswoman Katherine Gallagher said the decision sent a “dangerous message that politics trumps justice.
“The ICC is a court of last resort. If it cannot, or will not, hold the powerful accountable for the most serious crimes, it fails to meet its core purpose of ending impunity and showing no-one is above the law.
“For many, the ordeal that began in Afghanistan continues, with no end in sight, at Guantanamo Bay.
“For the ICC to fold up its investigation, under pressure from the US, puts its credibility at risk. The court must recognise that these victims have a right to be heard.”
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