ICC Prosecutor Calls for Probe into Afghanistan War Crimes

On Friday, International Criminal Court (‘ICC’) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, called for an enquiry into crimes alleged to have been committed in connection with armed conflict in Afghanistan.

In a video statement for the ICC, Bensouda announced that her demand for judicial authorisation “will focus solely upon war crimes, and crimes against humanity allegedly committed since 1st May, 2003, on the territory of Afghanistan; as well as war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan allegedly committed since 1st July, 2002, on the territory of other states parties to the Rome Statute”.

She revealed that the ICC does not have jurisdiction with regard to alleged crimes perpetrated before these cut-off dates.

Bensouda’s request is the last in a three-step process for opening an investigation in the ICC. The request by the ICC prosecutor for ICC judges to authorise an investigation is generally preceded by both a State Party and a United Nations Security Council request to investigate.

If Bensouda’s request is accepted, an independent and impartial probe will investigate crimes within the court’s jurisdiction committed by any party to the armed conflict in the aforementioned territories.

In accordance with practices and policies, the chief focus of the enquiry will be those most accountable for the heinous crimes perpetrated in relation to the situation in Afghanistan.

Last year, the prosecutor’s office released a report averring that there is “reasonable basis” to hold that the following crimes have taken place:

  • “Crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Taliban and their affiliated Haqqani Network;
  • “War crimes of torture and related ill-treatment by Afghan government forces, in particular the intelligence agency (National Directorate for Security), and the Afghan National Police;
  • “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.”

For now, Bensouda states that “we will always strive to do everything possible to ensure that our engagement in the exercise of our mandate is sensitive to the plight of victims in Afghanistan,” and that her office counts on the co-operation and support of both Afghanistan, and the Afghani government to ensure accountability.

International Criminal Law, Middle East

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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