CAN's Director calls on the International Criminal Court Assembly of States Parties to ensure justice for Afghan victims of war at its 18th Annual Session
5 December 2019
As the International Criminal Court (ICC) prepared to start hearing an appeal against earlier decision rejecting to authorise an investigation in Afghanistan, CAN's Director Horia Mosadiq called on the ICC States Parties to take action and ensure justice for victims in Afghanistan.
Horia Mosadiq represented the Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG) of Afghanistan, a coalition of 26 civil society organisations working on transitional justice in Afghanistan, and addressed the ICC Assembly of States Parties on 3 December 2019.
The ICC States Parties convene from 2 to 7 December 2019 in The Hague for the 18th annual session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute to decide upon matters key to the future functioning of the ICC.
Horia Mosadiq highlighted the pervasive culture of impunity in Afghanistan for the ongoing serious human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed by parties to the armed conflict. Ms. Mosadiq called on the ICC Assembly of States Parties to do more and take action to ensure Afghan victims’ access to justice and redress.
In her statement, Ms Mosadiq stressed that the ICC mandate has not been met in relation to Afghanistan and conveyed the message of the Transitional Justice Coordination Group of Afghanistan to the ICC state parties:
"Afghan victims are looking to each of you. We want an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. We need your help. Do not look away from us because the powerful would push us down. Stand with victims, stand with the mandate of the Court we created together."
The statement comes at a crucial time for Afghanistan as the ICC started hearing an appeal, from 4 to 6 December 2019, against the earlier rejection to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of the armed conflict in Afghanistan since 2003. In April 2019, the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber rejected the prosecutor's request to proceed with an investigation in Afghanistan, despite acknowledging that there is a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC’s Rome Statute had been committed by Taliban, Afghan security forces and the US armed forces and the CIA, and despite the lack of investigations or prosecutions of those most responsible for the alleged crimes. The ICC judges rejected an investigation in Afghanistan on the basis that an investigation at this stage “would not serve the interests of justice” arguing that an investigation and prosecution were likely to fail due to cooperation challenges by the parties involved and the limited resources. The ruling has been strongly criticised by victims groups and many human rights organisations. It is believed to be made under the political pressure of the US who has stepped up efforts to discredit the court and issued threats and visa bans against ICC staff who are involved in any investigation of U.S. personnel.
Regarding the ICC's judges rejection to authorise an investigation on Afghanistan, Ms Mosadiq said:
"When the ICC Prosecutor Madam Fatou Bensouda requested permission to open a formal investigation into the situation of Afghanistan because of the gravity of the crimes and because the Afghan government is unable and unwilling to prosecute the suspected war criminals in November 2017, Afghan victims were filled with hope. But when that permission was denied it created a wave of shock and disbelief among millions of victims in Afghanistan. Afghan victims and their families were betrayed once more but this time by an institution mandated to deliver justice."
During the ongoing ICC appeal proceedings, the victims' lawyer representing 82 alleged Afghan victims, argued that the ICC was "the only jurisdiction in the world...that can offer the victims a prompt and impartial investigation into the brutal crimes committed against them." The ICC investigation has been rejected by the lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump and the Afghan Government who also attend the appeal proceedings.
CAN advocates for an accountability for serious human rights violations and intentional crimes committed in the Afghanistan’s armed conflict as a crucial measure to protect victims from the endless cycle of violence and as a foundation for a sustainable peace.
Given the prevailing impunity for crimes committed by the Taliban and other armed groups, Afghan Government forces and the US military personnel in the armed conflict in Afghanistan and blanket amnesties granted as part of the peace efforts, the ICC remains the only option to ensure impartial investigations and prosecutions of those most responsible for the serious harm committed against Afghan civilians.