ICC judges authorise investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan

The International Criminal Court in The Hague The International Criminal Court in The Hague Peter Dejong / AP

10 March 2020

The ICC will investigate alleged war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan, despite the opposition of the US government

On 5 March 2020, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has authorised an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the United States (US) troops, the Afghan forces and the Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The ICC has ruled that all the actions since May 2003 will be examined.

The US  arrived in Afghanistan in 2001 to dismantle Al-Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power after they sheltered Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11 attack. The US’s war in Afghanistan has absorbed thousands of lives and is the longest US war so far. According to the United Nations (UN), the conflict is currently one of the world’s deadliest conflicts: since the UN began to document its casualties in 2009, “it has recorded more than 100,000 civilian casualties, including more than 35,000 killed and 65,000 injured”.

The tension between the Hague and the US began in 2017, when Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced her decision to pursue an investigation into the alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan. Bensouda has stated that it is reasonable to believe that US troops committed acts of torture, cruelty, extra-judicial executions, rape and sexual violence against “conflict-related” detainees. The ICC judges also approved that the investigation should include the CIA black sites in Poland, Romania and Lithuania, where detainees have been transferred. Bensouda further alleged that the members of Afghan army are suspected of torturing prisoners at government detention facilities.

However, the US has never joined the ICC and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promptly denounced ICC's jurisdiction and mandate. He described ICC’s decision as “truly breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body”. As a consequence, the Trump administration has revoked visas for the ICC staff investigating alleged war crimes.


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Author: Silvia Luminati; Editor: Aleksandra Krol

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