ICC prosecutor seeks probe into Afghanistan war crimes allegations
An investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan since the United States' 2001 military intervention may soon get underway, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said on Friday.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that a preliminary examination found "a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity" were committed in Afghanistan after US-led troops moved in following the 9/11 attacks in New York.
Once the prosecutor submits her investigation request to the court, which is based in the Dutch city of The Hague, it is then up to the tribunal's judges to decide whether to open a probe. Bensouda's office said her request will be filed publicly "in the days to come."
An investigation into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan would open a new chapter for the ICC, which has until now largely dealt with trials relating to abuses committed in Africa. The only case currently under investigation involving a country outside the African continent is into abuses allegedly committed in the Soviet republic of Georgia.
Comment: The Vietnam War, the War on Terror and the lessons not learned
Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement as a step toward ending impunity for alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan.
"Thousands and thousands of Afghans have suffered horrendous human rights abuses and war crimes over the years and there has been no accountability," Richard Dicker of the group’s international justice program said. "The announcement today by the prosecutor opens the door to the possibility that for the first time there may be some justice possible for the victims."
Bensouda said in a report last year that US forces and CIA agents may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.
Taliban and Afghan government forces also may have used torture and committed other atrocities in Afghanistan's long and bitter conflict, the report said.
Bensouda said in a statement on Friday that if judges approve an investigation, her office "will investigate, within its mandate and means, in an independent, impartial and objective way, crimes within the Court's jurisdiction allegedly committed by any party to the armed conflict."
US citizens could face prosecution if their alleged crimes took place in a country that is an International Criminal Court member, such as Afghanistan, and if they were not prosecuted at home.