ICC green-lights investigation into Afghanistan 'war crimes'

Decision comes days after US agreed to pull out its troops from the long-running Afghan conflict


News Desk/ Reuters March 05, 2020
The International Criminal Court building is seen in The Hague, Netherlands, January 16, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Thursday authorised an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, including looking into possible atrocities committed by US, Afghan and Taliban armed fighters.

The decision, which comes days after the United States agreed to pull its troops from the long-running conflict, overturns a lower court decision and opens the way for prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to launch a full investigation, despite the US government opposition.

“The Appeals chamber considers it appropriate to... authorise the investigation,” said presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski, noting that Bensouda’s preliminary examination had found reasonable grounds to believe war crimes were committed in Afghanistan and that the court has jurisdiction.

Afghanistan is a member of the Hague-based court, though the United States is not and President Donald Trump’s administration imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions against ICC employees a year ago.

A pretrial panel last year had rejected Bensouda’s 2017 request to open an investigation, arguing that the odds of success were low, given the passage of time, a lack of cooperation from Kabul and Washington, and because it would not “serve the interests of justice.”

Afghan war crimes probe must go ahead, say ICC judges

But Hofmanski said Bensouda should proceed and not limit her investigation to preliminary findings, as that would “erroneously inhibit the prosecution’s truth-seeking function.”

Bensouda believes there are grounds to open an investigation into abuses committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as the alleged torture of prisoners by Afghan authorities and to a lesser extent by US forces and the CIA.

US forces and other foreign troops entered Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 Al Qaeda attacks on the United States and overthrew the Taliban government, which had been protecting Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

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