(Kabul) – The Afghan government should deliver on promises to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s ongoing analysis of the grave crimes committed in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch and the Transitional Justice Coordination Group (TJCG) said today in a letter to President Ashraf Ghani.
Since 2007, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been examining whether crimes committed in Afghanistan since May 2003 meet the threshold to open a formal investigation. The prosecutor reported in November 2015 that its long-sought efforts to visit the country to assess national criminal proceedings, key to its analysis, had been frustrated. In late January 2016, the second vice president made a statement welcoming an ICC visit to Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan has been a justice-free zone for too long, with victims of grave abuses paying the highest price,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director. “As an ICC member, the Afghan government should make good on its obligations to cooperate with the ICC and show its commitment to the rule of law.”
The prosecutor’s analysis covers possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by members of the Taliban, Afghan government forces, and international forces, including United States forces. Afghanistan became a member of the ICC on May 1, 2003.
Human Rights Watch and the TJCG urged key Afghan government officials, including those in the Foreign Affairs and Justice Ministries, as well as the national security advisor and the attorney general, to meet with the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor. The two nongovernmental organizations also called on the government to ratify the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the Court, an international treaty that provides the ICC with the necessary access and cooperation to carry out its work in the country independently.
In its January statement, the government announced the creation of a technical committee of key government officials and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to broker cooperation with the ICC. The government should include civil society activists such as the TJCG as observer members of the committee, the groups said.
The government also said it would officially solicit “the views and opinions of international partners about the nature of their interaction with the ICC.” Human Rights Watch and the TJCG expressed concern about the possible role of the US and other foreign forces to influence the scope of Afghanistan’s cooperation with the ICC, given its legal obligation to do so as a member of the court.
“The government’s top priority should not be placating international partners, but rather delivering justice to Afghanistan’s countless victims,” Dicker said.