Economy

ICC Seeks Approval To Investigate Afghanistan War Crimes, Could Include US

Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced today that she will ask the court's judges to open an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan committed since May 1, 2003, when Afghanistan became a member of the court.

According to Bensouda's statement, the investigation would also include "war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan allegedly committed since 1 July 2002 on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute", the global treaty that established the ICC.

The prosecutor did not mention any specific parties to be investigated.

Once the prosecutor submits her investigation request to the court, which is based in the Dutch city of The Hague, it's then up to the tribunal's judges to decide whether to open one.

An Afghanistan probe would be exceptional because up until now all ICC trials have dealt with alleged crimes in Africa.

For decades, the people of Afghanistan have endured the scourge of armed conflict.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecution of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

"Thousands and thousands of Afghans have suffered horrendous human rights abuses and war crimes over the years and there has been no accountability", Richard Dicker of the group's global justice program told The Associated Press. War crimes of torture and related ill-treatment, by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014.

Whatever the court decides about the role of United States forces, the people in Afghanistan who have suffered enormously for decades deserve the world's attention.

This includes attacks directed against civilians by the Taliban and its allies, as well as torture and other ill-treatment allegedly committed by the Afghan government forces and its USA and coalition allies.

The time frame for the probe, she said, "will focus exclusively upon war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed since 1 May 2003 on the territory of Afghanistan as well as war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan allegedly committed since 1 July 2002 on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute".

The alleged atrocities took place in all 34 of Afghanistan's provinces, with a smaller number of crimes alleged in Poland, Lithuania and Romania, where suspected members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda were held for questioning.

At the same time, "legal experts have said the chances of American service members being charged and sent to face justice at the ICC are remote", according to The Associated Press.

Katherine Gallagher, senior staff attorney at the US rights organization the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the possibility that Americans could be charged sends a "long overdue message that no one is above the law". In this regard, I note the initiatives undertaken by the Government of Afghanistan over the course of the past year in an effort to build capacity to meet its obligations under the Rome Statute.

The U.S. initially signed the Rome Statute under the Clinton administration but never ratified it, citing concerns that it would be used to prosecute U.S. citizens unfairly. The Taliban, Haqqani network, Afghan government, USA troops and Central Intelligence Agency all appear to have carried out war crimes, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says.

Rather, they appear to have been committed as part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract "actionable intelligence' from detainees", she said. President Barack Obama banned such practices after taking office in 2009.

After the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration allowed the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, and other interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists.

"We have seen that arrest and surrender is the Achilles heel of global justice", Dicker said.



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