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International court judges reject Afghanistan war crimes probe; cite lack of cooperation

BRUSSELS — In a decision decried as “deeply flawed” and a “devastating blow for victims,” International Criminal Court judges on Friday rejected a request by the court’s prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and alleged crimes by U.S. forces linked to the conflict. In a lengthy written…

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International court judges reject Afghanistan war crimes probe; cite lack of cooperation

BRUSSELS — In a decision decried as “deeply flawed” and a “devastating blow for victims,” International Criminal Court judges on Friday rejected a request by the court’s prosecutor to open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and alleged crimes by U.S. forces linked to the conflict.

In a lengthy written ruling, judges said an investigation “would not serve the interests of justice” because an investigation and prosecution were unlikely to be successful, as those targeted, including the United States, Afghan authorities and the Taliban, are not expected to cooperate, the court said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch slammed the ruling, calling it “a devastating blow for victims who have suffered grave crimes without redress.”

In a statement released by the White House, the Trump administration hailed the decision not to investigate U.S. personnel as “a major international victory, not only for these patriots, but for the rule of law.”

The ICC decision does acknowledge that the November 2017 request from Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open a probe “establishes a reasonable basis to consider that crimes within the ICC jurisdiction have been committed in Afghanistan and that potential cases would be admissible before the Court.”

In a written reaction, the court’s prosecution office said it “will further analyze the decision and its implications, and consider all available legal remedies.”

The decision comes a month after U.S. 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.

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Bensouda’s U.S. visa already has been revoked.

In this Jan. 28, 2016, file image, Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda waits for the start of the trial against former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. (Peter Dejong/AP)

In a written statement, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that the rejection followed those measures: “I am glad the Court reconsidered its actions.”

Patrick Baudouin, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, called the rejection a “dark day for justice” and a “shocking decision, which is based on a deeply flawed reasoning.”

Bensouda’s request to open an investigation said there is information that members of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period.”

She also said that the Taliban and other insurgent groups have killed more than 17,000 civilians since 2009, including some 7,000 targeted killings.

She alleged that Afghan security forces have tortured prisoners at government detention centers.

Sima Samar, the chair of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission who lobbied strongly for the investigation, said the decision was a disappointment for victims.

In a phone interview from Kabul, she told The Associated Press that it risks emboldening the perpetrators of crimes in Afghanistan, who were “at least a little fearful” of facing justice.

“With this decision, people will lose hope of getting justice and they might take revenge, fueling conflict in the country,” she said.

The court said in a statement that the shifting Afghan political scene since then, the lack of cooperation that prosecutors have received so far and the likelihood that cooperation would diminish further if a full-blown investigation is opened combine to hamper the chances of a successful investigation and prosecutions.

Judges said the court needs to “use its resources prioritizing activities that would have better chances to succeed,” according to an ICC press release.

Human Rights Watch said the ruling establishes a dangerous precedent.

“The judges’ logic effectively allows states to opt out on their obligation to cooperate with the court’s investigation,” said Param-Preet Singh, the group’s associate international justice director. “This sends a dangerous message to perpetrators that they can put themselves beyond the reach of the law just by being uncooperative.”

Kathy Gannon in Islamabad and Matthew Lee in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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Please leave your guns at home for boot camp graduation, Parris Island officials say

Boot camp graduation in the Marine Corps is a joyous occasion, newly minted Marines finally getting the chance to bid farewell to sandpits and quarterdecks and strut around the parade deck showing off some dazzling close order drill maneuvers. The natural inclination for any red-blooded American on this most joyous occasion may be to follow…

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Please leave your guns at home for boot camp graduation, Parris Island officials say

Boot camp graduation in the Marine Corps is a joyous occasion, newly minted Marines finally getting the chance to bid farewell to sandpits and quarterdecks and strut around the parade deck showing off some dazzling close order drill maneuvers. The natural inclination for any red-blooded American on this most joyous occasion may be to follow the lead of Will Ferrell in “The Other Guys” and pop off a few celebratory rounds from the family Colt .45. Or, if you have more of a foreign bent, a sleek Glock 19. The staff at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, however, is beseeching family members of newly graduated Marines — be the one, too — to not bring guns on base. In a May 17 Facebook post, MRCD Parris Island indicated that, since the May 7 reopening of boot camp graduations to the public, there has been an uptick in families attempting to bring guns onto the premises. “As a federal installation, no personal firearms are authorized aboard the base and those families must take measures to store their firearms prior to entering the base or they will be turned away,” Capt. Bryan McDonnell told Marine Corps Times in a written statement. A spokesperson for California’s Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego told Marine Corps Times the left coast installation, predictably, has not experienced a gun problem over the same period. In addition to firearms, the Corps also bans toy guns, knives with a blade longer than three inches, prescription medication not properly labeled, explosive materials or fireworks, alcohol and any illegal drugs. Get the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup Don’t miss the top Marine Corps stories, delivered each afternoon (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup. Basically, if it’s material your “I woulda enlisted in the military but can’t no drill instructors tell me what to do” cousin employes to spend a fun weekend, it’s likely banned from Parris Island. Although, with the full reopening of the base after extensive closures due to COVID-19, even those would-haves are welcome to come see the real thing.

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III MEF sends AAVs back in the water

Members of III Marine Expeditionary Force have returned to waterborne training with amphibious assault vehicles for the first time since July 2020, when an AAV sank off the California coast killing 8 Marines and one sailor. Shortly after the accident, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger called a halt to all waterborne AAV training until…

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III MEF sends AAVs back in the water

Members of III Marine Expeditionary Force have returned to waterborne training with amphibious assault vehicles for the first time since July 2020, when an AAV sank off the California coast killing 8 Marines and one sailor. Shortly after the accident, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger called a halt to all waterborne AAV training until the causes of the accident could be discovered and addressed. The Corps and Navy have launched at least four investigations into the accident, the vehicles and the formation of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which owned the vehicle that sank. The Corps found numerous safety issues and unclear, confusing regulations surrounding AAV operations. Following its first investigation into the accident, the Marine Corps conducted a thorough review of its AAV fleet, with updated requirements for watertight integrity and bilge pump functionality. “A majority of the AAVs failed to meet the new inspection criteria,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, commander of Marine Forces Pacific, said in the investigation. The most common failures were, “bilge pump ­discrepancies, inoperable emergency egress lighting systems and plenum leakage,” exactly what had doomed the AAV assigned to the 15th MEU. Get the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup Don’t miss the top Marine Corps stories, delivered each afternoon (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Marine Corps Times Daily News Roundup. Satisfied with the new standards and Marines performance in a weeks-long training exercise, the Corps has now returned AAVs to water operations. “U.S. Marines with Company B, 3d Assault Amphibian Battalion, completed a demanding waterborne operations training package June 8, 2021, on Okinawa, Japan, in compliance with all updated policies and procedures, effectively returning an important capability to III MEF,” according to the news release. The MEF conducted a “thorough review” of all safety procedures and maintenance related to AAV waterborne operations prior to the training event, the release stated. “We completed a rigorous review to ensure we can operate our AAVs safely, protect our Marines and Sailors, and complete our mission responsibly,” Lt. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, commanding general of III MEF, said in the release. “We will continue to mitigate risk while employing a ready and capable force to deter aggression and respond to crisis in the region in support of our nation’s interests and our allies and partners,” he added.

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Biden to return $2 billion diverted from Pentagon projects for border wall

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s signature border wall project would lose much of its funding as well as the fast-track status that enabled it to bypass environmental regulations under a Biden administration plan announced Friday. President Joe Biden suspended construction of the wall upon taking office while his administration reviewed the project. That angered…

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Biden to return $2 billion diverted from Pentagon projects for border wall

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump’s signature border wall project would lose much of its funding as well as the fast-track status that enabled it to bypass environmental regulations under a Biden administration plan announced Friday. President Joe Biden suspended construction of the wall upon taking office while his administration reviewed the project. That angered Republicans in Congress eager to see it go forward amid an increase in apprehensions of migrants along the southwest border. The new plan does not cancel the wall project outright, but it’s still likely to face opposition in Congress, where many Republicans are eager to promote a project closely associated with the former president. Biden plans to return more than $2 billion that the Trump administration diverted from the Pentagon to help pay for the wall and use other money appropriated by Congress to address “urgent life, safety, and environmental issues” created by the construction. It also asks lawmakers not to provide any additional funding for what the Biden team believes is an unnecessary effort. “Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement outlining the plan. The government has built walls and other barriers along the 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border for decades to eliminate some of the easier routes of avoiding checkpoints. Trump turned the issue into a centerpiece of his political identity. Trump vowed to build a “virtually impenetrable” wall, insisting it would be paid for by Mexico, which never happened. Instead, his administration set aside about $15 billion through a combination of congressional appropriations and taking the money from the Pentagon and other parts of the government. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. The Trump administration built about 450 miles (725 kilometers) of wall, moving quickly and waiving requirements for environmental reviews and mediation, though only about 52 miles (84 kilometers) were in areas where no barrier previously existed. Biden’s decision to suspend construction prompted Republican senators to ask the Government Accountability Office to investigate whether the administration was violating federal law in not using appropriated money for its intended purpose. The administration said Friday that it will use funds already set aside by Congress for “their appropriated purpose, as required by law” but is requesting no new money for wall construction in the Department of Homeland Security’s 2022 budget. Biden is instead seeking money for increased technology at the ports of entry and elsewhere, saying there are more efficient ways to stop illegal immigration and drug smuggling at the border. The administration said it would return $2 billion taken from the Pentagon and use it for the construction projects for which the money was originally intended. That includes $79 million for an elementary school for the children of American service members in Germany; $25 million for a fire and rescue station at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida; and $10 million to expand defenses against North Korean ballistic missiles at Fort Greely in Alaska. It plans to use the approximately $1.9 million remaining appropriated by Congress for the wall for drainage and erosion control or other environmental problems caused by wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and elsewhere. Dozens of advocacy organizations have called on the Biden administration to pay for the restoration of sensitive wildlife habitat and land considered sacred to Native Americans that was damaged by wall construction. “This is a welcome, sensible next step to begin healing the devastation that Trump inflicted on the borderlands,” said Paulo Lopes, a senior policy land specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity. The administration doesn’t explicitly say it won’t build any new wall. But it says that any new construction will be subjected to environmental review and that it will review ongoing efforts to seize land from property owners by eminent domain and will return parcels to the owners if the Department of Homeland Security determines it’s not needed. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said Thursday that the state would build its own new barriers along the border with Mexico but offered no details, including precisely where or what they would look like. He has promised more details next week. “We need to recognize that the numbers of people coming across the border are just going to continue to increase unless we change the game plan,” Abbott said. Associated Press writers Anita Snow in Phoenix and Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

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