Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out in an official statement Thursday in response to the International Criminal Court (ICC) announcing it has begun an investigation into alleged US war crimes during the eighteen-year long war. The ICC said it will also probe allegations against all parties in the conflict, including the Taliban and Afghan military.
"This is a truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body," the statement reads. "It is all the more reckless for this ruling to come just days after the United States signed a historic peace deal on Afghanistan – the best chance for peace in a generation," Pompeo added in reference to the historic US-Taliban peace deal which already appears to have unraveled.
The Thursday decision overturns a lower court ruling and marks the first time the ICC has opened a formal investigation focused on American forces. ICC cheif prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will launch a full investigation springing from evidence allegedly showing Americans had "committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence" in Afghanistan during the early years of the occupation.
"The Appeals chamber considers it appropriate to... authorize the investigation," ruled presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski on Thursday. Pompeo's swift and scathing response promised to protect all American citizens from what he implied is but a "political vendetta" from a "renegade" court.
The official US statement continues:
The United States is not a party to the ICC, and we will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, so-called court.
This is yet another reminder of what happens when multilateral bodies lack oversight and responsible leadership, and become instead a vehicle for political vendettas. The ICC has today stumbled into a sorry affirmation of every denunciation made by its harshest critics over the past three decades.
🎥 #ICC Appeals Chamber authorises the opening of an investigation into alleged crimes in relation to the situation in #Afghanistan. ➡Find out more in our press release shortly pic.twitter.com/H7r37XlbEL— Int'l Criminal Court (@IntlCrimCourt) March 5, 2020
Last year it looked as if the Hague-based international court was ready to give way to US and UK pressures to not pursue the case, in part citing "a poor outlook for state cooperation".
The ICC had previously vowed to continue to operate "undeterred" by any US threat of punitive action against it when it first considered examining allegations that US personnel committed war crimes, including instances of unlawful detention and torture of Afghans, as well as killing of civilians.
Also in 2019 the US threatened to revoke visas for members of the ICC at The Hague should they so much as investigate any criminal actions of American military personnel. The United States has never been a member of the ICC and considers it without authority over matters related to Americans or allies conducting joint operations.