Urgent need to address war crimes in Afghanistan

Afghan children Afghan children Photo by Kostas7 on iStock

13 September 2021

As the Afghan government has failed to investigate serious crimes, a fact-finding and monitoring mechanism is now necessary more than ever.

15 August 2021 marked Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, with the fall of Kabul and the subsequent collapse of the former government, as well as the withdrawal of the last US troops. Driven by growing concerns about the accelerating human rights crisis in the country, the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission – together with Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organisations – has reiterated its call for the UN Human Rights Council to order the establishment of a fact-finding and monitoring mechanism. Indeed, long  before the Taliban's overthrow, Afghanistan had experienced an increase in attacks on civilians, as testified by the dramatic attack on a school in Kabul back in May, when over 100 people – mostly schoolgirls – were killed. Or by the most recent images depicting two Afghan journalists being arrested and beaten up by Taliban.

However, despite the call for a UN-mandated fact-finding mission to investigate these attacks on civilians, there has been little interest on the part of the international parties involved in the conflict to pursue the task. In March 2020, for example, the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges launched an investigation into alleged crimes (which encompass enforced disappearances, torture, rape and extrajudicial killings) committed by the Taliban and its affiliated forces, the former Afghan National Security Forces, the US military and Central Intelligence Agency officials. But then-President Ashraf Ghani’s appeal to Article 18 of the ICC’s Rome Statute delayed the investigations. As a matter of fact, the Afghan government (as well as the US government) has never prosecuted those serious crimes and now, with the Taliban in power, it seems even more difficult to achieve some sort of national accountability.

The ICC member states must therefore  step up and demand accountability for the horrendous crimes committed during the war in Afghanistan. Moreover, the UN Human Rights Council should encourage the UN-mandated fact-finding mission to monitor human rights in Afghanistan and the sharing of its findings with the ICC to foster the judicial process.








Author: Laura De Pascale; Editor: Catherine Meunier

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