A WORLD court designed to investigate allegations of human rights violations has found itself in the crosshairs of the President of the United States.
A new Trump executive order threatening the court’s operations has been condemned by prominent global institutions and individuals as it appears to give cover to human rights abuses committed in the course of U.S. foreign wars while demanding accountability from foreign countries in similar circumstances.
The International Criminal Court (ICC), for example, has the power to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in northeast Nigeria, and by so doing, offers the possibility of justice for Nigerians who suffered abuses by the military fighting Boko Haram in that region.
In March, the ICC ruled that it could also investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan – including any committed by the U.S. – taking a step that outraged the Trump administration.
Param-Preet Singh of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, praised the decision of the ICC to greenlight an investigation of brutal crimes in Afghanistan, reaffirming the court’s essential role for victims when all other doors to justice are closed.
After years of collecting information on the Afghanistan war, the court’s chief prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda of The Gambia, said that enough information had been found to prove that U.S. forces “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence” in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, and later in clandestine C.I.A. facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania.
She requested permission to open an investigation into claims of war crimes and crimes against humanity attributed to the U.S. military and intelligence personnel, the Taliban and Afghan forces.
The United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan has documented the killings of more than 17,000 civilians by the Taliban since 2009, including nearly 7,000 targeted killings. Yet, last April, a U.N. report found that U.S. and Afghan forces had killed more civilians in the first three months of 2019 than the Taliban did..
Objections by the U.S. to being examined for serious crimes in Afghanistan began with John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, who denounced the court as “illegitimate.” He said: “We won’t cooperate with the I.C.C. We will provide no assistance to the I.C.C. And we certainly will not join the I.C.C. We will let the I.C.C. die on its own.” He added, “If the court comes after us, we will not sit quietly.”
Similar comments have been made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Shaharzad Akbar, the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said the court had made the right decision to procede over U.S. objections. “We will advocate for victims regardless of the group affiliation of the perpetrator — whether U.S. actors, Taliban or Afghan forces,” Ms. Akbar said.
The ICC was established more than 15 years ago to seek justice for victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
This report is published with permission from Global Information Network.