Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, April 13th, 2021

War Crimes Committed with Impunity in Afghanistan

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War Crimes Committed with  Impunity in Afghanistan

Warring parties and foreign forces have been engaged in war crimes in Afghanistan as a large number of civilians, including women and children, have been wounded and killed in indiscriminate attacks, mainly by the Taliban fighters. The international humanitarian law has been flagrantly violated across the country within the last couple of decades. The Taliban are still unwilling to stop violence against non-combatants.
Crime against humanity is rife in Afghanistan. The Taliban are the main violator of human rights and humanitarian law as they carry out indiscriminate attacks in crowded cities. The proportion of the Taliban’s attacks is too large, leading to unnecessary suffering of men, women, and children. The Taliban fighters shift their war in residential areas to use local people as shield. They torture the detainees and mistreat them. They also recruit children in fighting.
Meanwhile, reports say that foreign troops as well as Afghan soldiers also perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity. Civilians have been killed and their houses were destroyed in bombardments carried out by Afghan and foreign troops. However, the Afghan government either turned its back on such issues or did not have the ability to try the criminals.
The United States signed a Bilateral Security Agreement with the Ghani administration, based on which the US war criminals will be tried by American courts in its own territory not in Afghanistan.
It is self-explanatory that Afghan citizens and ordinary people bore the brunt of violence and conflict within the last couple of decades. A large number of non-combatants were amputated or killed and national laws and international instruments were violated with impunity. The Taliban fighters neither had an iota of knowledge about nor intended to respect human rights or the rule of war.
Afghanistan acceded to the Rome Statute in February 2003 and is a member state of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In November 2017, the ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had requested authorization to open an investigation into war crimes and crime against humanity allegedly committed since 1 May 2003 on the Afghan territory.
So far, the prosecutor wants to investigate crimes by Afghan government forces, anti-government groups such as the Taliban, and foreign forces – notably those allegedly committed by the US military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The prosecutor’s preliminary examination of the situation in Afghanistan became public in 2007, and, since then, the office has been gathering information to determine whether to seek a full investigation.
Human Rights Watch has reported several violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Afghan government forces, the Taliban and US military. It documented many abuses by the Taliban group, which has carried out numerous suicide and other indiscriminate attacks on thousands of civilians, including judges, legislators, community elders, and journalists.
The Trump administration voiced its concern about the investigation of ICC’s prosecutor and imposed sanctioned on her, arguing that the US is not member of the ICC.
But it should be noted that since Afghanistan is the ICC state member, the ICC has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed on the territory of Afghanistan after May 1, 2003 – even crimes by nationals of non-states parties.
By and large, the US on Friday lifted sanctions on ICC prosecutor Bensouda that drew international criticism after they were imposed by the Trump administration.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that State Department had also terminated a separate 2019 policy on visa restrictions on certain ICC personnel and added, “These decisions reflect our assessment that the measures adopted were inappropriate and ineffective.”
He said Washington was taking the step even though it continued “to disagree strongly with the ICC’s actions relating to the Afghanistan and Palestinian situations” and to object to ICC “efforts to assert jurisdiction over personnel of non-Sates Parties such as the United States and Israel”.
US President Joe Biden said that Washington would “protect current and former United States personnel” from any ICC attempts to exercise jurisdiction over them.State parties and the international community should put all its weight behind the ICC’s move for investigating the war crimes in Afghanistan so that justice is fulfilled and the perpetrators should not be granted impunity. No one is beyond law and perpetrators had to be tried. It is believed that opposing the decision of the ICC and challenging this move will fill the air with disappointment in countries where war crimes committed and make people lose their trust in international community.
Those countries, which claim to defend and respect human rights and are the flag-bearer of democracy and human rights, have to support the ICC to bring war criminals into justice.
Meanwhile, the ICC’s move is likely to mitigate the pain of the war victims and decrease the level of ongoing violence, carried out by the Taliban and their affiliated groups. Being confident that they would enjoy impunity, the Taliban fighters continue violating the international humanitarian law on day-to-day basis, which outrages the collective conscience.

Hujjatullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan and freelance writer based in Kabul. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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