The International Criminal Court is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. File photo/AP
International war crimes judges will rule on Thursday whether a probe into wartime abuses in Afghanistan will go ahead, including possible atrocities committed by US forces.
The International Criminal Court last year rejected a demand by its chief prosecutor to look into crimes committed in the war-torn nation — an investigation also bitterly opposed by Washington.
The court's judges in The Hague are now set to decide on an appeal by prosecutors against the initial decision.
In 2006, the ICC's prosecutors opened a preliminary probe into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in the central Asian nation since 2003.
In 2017, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked judges to allow a full-blown probe, not only into Taliban and Afghan government personnel but also international forces, US troops and members of the Central Intelligence Agency.
But pre-trial judges said it "would not serve the interests of justice" and that the court should focus on cases with a better chance of success.
While US officials hailed the decision, human rights groups said it was a blow to thousands of the victims — and ICC prosecutors appealed.
Should Bensouda lose, she is allowed to ask again for an investigation if "new facts or evidence regarding the same situation" emerge, according to the ICC's statute.
Bensouda's move also unleashed a backlash from Washington, which in April last year revoked the Gambian-born chief prosecutor's visa as part of broader restrictions on ICC staff probing American or allied personnel.
Former national security advisor John Bolton warned in 2018 that the US would arrest ICC judges if the court pursued an Afghan probe.
The US has never joined the ICC and does not recognise its authority over American citizens, saying it poses a threat to national sovereignty.
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The court ruled seven of the party's former lawmakers, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, were guilty of leading a criminal organization, while the others were guilty of participating in a criminal organisation.
The move, announced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, lifts sanctions imposed on Bensouda over her investigation into whether American forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan.
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