Israel Calls International Criminal Court Dismissal of Trial of US Forces ‘Very Important’

Israel believes they benefit from the US court victory. PM Netanyahu meets with VPOTUS Pence. Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Amos Ben-Gershom (Israeli GPO)

The Israeli military won a victory on Friday, not on the battlefield but in the courtroom. The International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague rejected the request of the prosecutor to bring war crimes charges against US forces involved in the Afghanistan conflict. The decision, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is far-reaching and sets a precedent for dealing with soldiers from Israel—who like the US has a robust judicial system and is not party to the ICC treaty.

However, while Israel and the US responded to the decision as though it is broad in scope, the ICC decision itself did not appear to exclude the US or other parties from war crimes cases in the future and dismissed this prosecution mostly due to circumstantial reasons, according to the ICC website.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu called the ICC decision “very important” in comments released by his office on Sunday. “This blocked a move that would have upended the original goal of establishing the international court,” said Netanyahu, who said the court emerged after crimes such as genocide intending “to deal with countries and regions that have no true legal system.” Israel and the US, he noted, are not in that category.

“They harass the US and Israel, democracies, which by the way are not members of the international court,” he said. “But, without doubt, we have one of the best legal systems in the world, which is not a given because there are very few of these. To come and put on trial US or Israeli soldiers, or the State of Israel or the US, is absurd. It is the opposite of the original goal of the international court.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in an interview with Jake Tapper of CNN on Friday that was republished by the US State Department, noted the ICC has “no jurisdiction over our people. It’s been trying to exert it.”

Pompeo, like Netanyahu, made it clear that the US has their own judicial methods for addressing war crimes that may be committed by their citizens. “This would have been a very political effort to try and take on the people who were acting on behalf of the United States in ways that were completely consistent with our laws and try and hold them accountable in ways that were completely inappropriate,” said Pompeo of the ICC case. “I am very pleased that the ICC made this decision today. It’s the right one.

“Know that if Americans are found to have done things that are unlawful or against the laws of war, the US system will always hold them accountable, but the ICC is not the right place to do it. We didn’t sign up for that, and they had no authority over these people. I’m glad that they recognized that.”

Netanyahu viewed the decision as having significant ramifications. “This corrects an injustice and will have far-reaching implications for the functioning of the international system regarding the State of Israel. I commend the US, President Trump and the Trump administration for their strong stand alongside the citizens of Israel and the soldiers of the IDF.

“As on previous occasions, it has been proven that Israel has no better friend than the US and we very much appreciate the support in this field as well.”

However, the ICC did not indicate the final decision was made due to the inability to try the case. Afghanistan is a party to the ICC, although the official ICC decision posted to the ICC website did note that any alleged crimes committed by Americans outside the territory of Afghanistan would not be admissible. Alleged crimes inside Afghanistan, however, would be.

Ultimately, the ICC elected not to move forward with the case due circumstances such as the significant passage of time since a number of the incidents had occurred—dating back to the mid-2000s—and the lack of cooperation from relevant parties thus far in the preliminary investigation.

The press release said that the Pre-Trial II Chamber at the ICC, which rendered a decision on the case, believed “all the relevant requirements are met as regards both jurisdiction and admissibility.” However, the press release went on to say that circumstances in Afghanistan “are such as to make the prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution extremely limited.”

“Accordingly, it is unlikely that pursuing an investigation would result in meeting the objectives listed by the victims favoring the investigation. Thus the Chamber concluded that an investigation into the situation in Afghanistan at this stage would not serve the interests of justice.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, April 14, 2019)



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