ICC approves investigation into war crimes allegedly committed in Afghanistan

On Thursday, the judges of the International Criminal Court decided that an investigation into the alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the Afghan army and the United States forces could be opened.

The decision, which comes days after the U.S. agreed to withdraw its troops from the long-standing conflict, cancels a lower court decision and paves the way for prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to launch a full investigation, despite opposition from the US government.

“The appeals chamber considers it appropriate … to authorize the investigation,” said Presiding Judge Piotr Hofmanski, noting that Bensouda’s preliminary examination had found reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes had been committed in Afghanistan and that the court had jurisdiction.

Afghanistan is a member of The Hague Tribunal, although the United States is not, and the administration of US President Donald Trump imposed travel restrictions and other sanctions against ICC employees there is one year old.

Last year, a status panel rejected Bensouda’s 2017 request to initiate an investigation, arguing that the chances of success are low, given the passage of time, the lack of cooperation from Kabul and Washington, and because it “would not serve the interests of justice”. “

But Hofmanski said Bensouda should continue and not limit his investigation to preliminary findings, as this “would wrongly hinder the prosecution’s truth-finding function”.

Bensouda believes that an investigation should be opened into the abuses committed between 2003 and 2014, including the mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as the allegations of torture of prisoners by the Afghan authorities and, to a lesser extent measure, by US forces and the CIA.

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

In what has become the longest war in the United States, approximately 13,000 American soldiers remain in Afghanistan.

The United States and the Taliban signed an agreement on Saturday to withdraw thousands of American soldiers still in the country, but Washington carried out an air strike Wednesday against Taliban fighters.

The ICC, which began operations in The Hague in 2002, is a court of last resort for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity when committed by nationals of a signatory state or s ‘they took place in the territory of one of its Member States. .