President Donald Trump on Friday called the International Criminal Court's decision not to probe alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, including those committed by USA troops and the Central Intelligence Agency, "a major international victory", and issued a not-so-subtle threat against any entity that would attempt to investigate "American, Israeli, or allied personnel for prosecution".
The court said in a statement that judges who declined to open the inquiry determined doing so "would not serve the interests of justice" after a prosecutor requested the matter be taken up in November 2017.
The decision comes a month after the USA secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The period the prosecutor wanted to be investigated was from May 1, 2003 on the territory of Afghanistan and also from July 1, 2002 on the territory of other states, with alleged war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan.
Reversing their position, they said in their 32-page decision that the political changes in Afghanistan and the lack of cooperation with the prosecutor would have hampered the investigation and prosecution, according to the release.
In a statement released by the White House, the Trump administration hailed the decision not to investigate US personnel as "a major worldwide victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law".
The US had revoked the entry visa for Fatou Bensouda in April.
The ICC's decision comes after the Trump administration threatened to take away the visas of officials seeking an investigation.
He vowed not to relent on the pressure, saying: "Any attempt to target American, Israeli or allied personnel for prosecution will be met with a swift and vigorous response".
"This decision will likely come to be seen as the beginning of a broader effort by the judges and the Prosecutor to orient the Court's very limited resources toward those investigations where there exists some meaningful prospect of success", Whiting wrote.
USA administrations have long criticised the ICC, arguing its soldiers could become the subject of political lawsuits.
While the judges said that it was reasonable to consider crimes had been committed in Afghanistan and would be admissible before the ICC, there were a number of conditions that led them to rule against opening an investigation.
Human Rights Watch called the court's decision "a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grave crimes without redress".
"With its decision today, the International Criminal Court sends a risky message, that bullying wins and that the powerful won't be held to account", said Katherine Gallagher of the Center for Constitutional Rights, headquartered in NY. The long record makes clear that both Republican and Democratic presidents have understood that the treaty underlying the International Criminal Court wouldnt stand a snowballs chance in the Sudan of getting ratified by the United States Senate.