Probe into alleged crimes in Afghanistan begins at International Criminal Court at The Hague

Published December 4, 2019
In April, judges rejected a request to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, Afghan security forces and American military and intelligence agencies. – AP
In April, judges rejected a request to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, Afghan security forces and American military and intelligence agencies. – AP

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a three-day hearing on Wednesday at which prosecutors and victims aim to overturn a decision scrapping a proposed investigation into alleged crimes in Afghanistan's brutal conflict.

Fergal Gaynor, a lawyer representing 82 Afghani victims, called it a historic day for accountability in Afghanistan.

In April, judges rejected a request by the court's prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to open an investigation into crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, Afghan security forces and American military and intelligence agencies.

In the ruling, which was condemned by victims and rights groups, the judges said that an investigation “would not serve the interests of justice” because it would likely fail due to lack of cooperation.

The decision came a month after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo banned visas for ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes and other abuses by US forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's request to open an investigation said there is information that members of the US 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 centres.

Even as they rejected the request for an investigation, judges in April acknowledged that Bensouda's November 2017 request to open a probe established 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.

Wednesday's hearing was focused on whether victims have a right under the court's Rome Statute founding document to take part in the appeal.

Gaynor told the five-judge panel that it is vital victims' views are taken into account in the appeal.

“We are here to challenge a decision that has extinguished all of their rights under the statute and has caused enormous damage to any hopes they have for justice and accountability,” Gaynor told judges.

He said it is critically important that victims can appeal a decision that represents “a clear and extreme danger to their rights.

With other states unwilling or unable to investigate the Afghanistan crimes, “the only jurisdiction in the world [...] that can offer the victims a prompt and impartial investigation into the brutal crimes committed against them is this court,” Gaynor told judges.

Opinion

Digital finance
17 Jan 2021

Digital finance

Raast offers opportunities for inclusion, but is not without risk.
Broadsheetgate
Updated 17 Jan 2021

Broadsheetgate

The competence that has underlined NAB and its actions has cost us dearly now and even in 2008.
Debate on ordinances
17 Jan 2021

Debate on ordinances

The government’s line of thinking indicates a belief in the principle of brute majority.
America in decline?
Updated 16 Jan 2021

America in decline?

In spite of the ‘gates’ that rocked the US, democracy stood firm.

Editorial

Updated 17 Jan 2021

Foreign funding case

THE Election Commission of Pakistan has summoned both the PML-N and PPP on Monday in connection with the foreign...
17 Jan 2021

Vaccine procurement

ALL eyes are on the government as it pledges to roll out the Covid-19 vaccination programme to about 80m citizens by...
17 Jan 2021

Makli ‘renovation’

THERE are fears that the recently conducted ‘renovation’ work carried out at the Makli necropolis may rob the...
16 Jan 2021

Gas liberalisation

AFTER drawing much criticism from both consumers and the opposition over its mismanagement of the energy sector that...
16 Jan 2021

Osama Satti inquiry

THE findings of the judicial inquiry into the Jan 2 killing of 21-year-old Osama Satti in Islamabad merely confirms...
Updated 16 Jan 2021

British MP on IHK

DESPITE sustained efforts by New Delhi’s rulers to remove India-held Kashmir from the global discourse, people of...