Why did the ICC decide not to probe alleged US atrocities in Afghanistan? The ICC said that investigating these alleged US atrocities would not serve the interest of justice. What do they mean by that and is the ICC fearful of a US retaliation against it?

2 Answers 2


The US is not a State party to the ICC, and doesn't recognize its legitimacy or authority.

This would not matter if the US generally cooperated with the ICC, but that is not the case: the US recently issued Visa bans on ICC staff.

As such, even if the court were to find something it would be pointless to prosecute because, unable to get their hands on the perpetuators, the court wouldn't be able to offer proper remedy.

  • 1
    According to the hrw.org article you linked, "ICC judges will determine whether an Afghanistan investigation will be opened [to probe alleged US atrocities there]. The ICC prosecutor will decide whether to proceed with a Palestine investigation." Just because their investigation is not actionable, doesn't mean it's pointless. They'll release their findings which if founded, will send a message. I'm confident the US will investigate this in good faith and prosecute if warranted (we love to prosecute people), although that might have to wait for a president who's initials are not Donald Trump. May 12, 2019 at 8:32
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    @KevinFegan: It might be just me but I'm not expecting the Trump administration to cooperate much, if at all. Obama's administration wasn't always cooperative either, for that matter. May 12, 2019 at 10:40
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    @KevinFegan I do not think that the US will do anything even if there is a report with damming material. The US has a long trackrecord of defying any and all international control/international denouncement.
    – Lovapa
    May 12, 2019 at 13:31

The ICC does not investigate every crime in the world, or even every war crime. They act

  • when the UNSC refers cases to the court, or
  • when individual nations refer cases to the court, or
  • when individual states are unwilling to prosecute war crimes.

Since the first two conditions have not been met, the ICC would have come to conclude that US military justice system is unwilling to prosecute war crimes by their servicemen. Consider the Behenna or Bales cases, which came to a guilty verdict.

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