KABUL: Since the International Criminal Court began collecting material three months ago for a possible war crimes case involving Afghanistan, it has gotten a staggering 1.17 million statements from Afghans who say they were victims.

The statements include accounts of alleged atrocities not only by groups like the Taliban and the militant Islamic State group, but also involving Afghan Security Forces and government-affiliated warlords, the US-led coalition, and foreign and domestic spy agencies, said Abdul Wadood Pedram of the Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organisation.

Based in part on the many statements, ICC judges in The Hague would then have to decide whether to seek a war crimes investigation. It’s uncertain when that decision will be made.

The statements were collected between Nov 20, 2017, and Jan 31, 2018, by organisations based in Europe and Afghanistan and sent to the ICC, Pedram said. Because one statement might include multiple victims and one organisation might represent thousands of victim statements, the number of Afghans seeking justice from the ICC could be several million.

“It is shocking there are so many,” Pedram said, noting that in some instances, whole villages were represented. “It shows how the justice system in Afghanistan is not bringing justice for the victims and their families.” The ICC did not give details about the victims or those providing the information.

“I have the names of the organisations, but because of the security issues, we don’t want to name them because they will be targeted,” said Pedram, whose group is based in Kabul.

Many of the representations include statements involving multiple victims, which could be the result of suicide bombings, targeted killings or airstrikes, he said.

Shoaib said his father, Naimatullah, was on a bus in Dawalat Yar district in Afghanistan’s central Ghor Province in 2014 when a band of gunmen stopped it and two other buses, forced the passengers off and told them to hand over their identity cards. The 14 Shias among them were separated from the rest and killed, one by one, he said.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2018

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