The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced last week that he is probing possible war crime charges against NATO and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.Such an investigation would be the first of its kind for the nation, and would expose the conflict’s heavy toll on civilians.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have been accused of excessive force and torturing prisoners. As STAND reported in its blog last week, a recent NATO airstrike resulted in the deaths of at least 70 Afghan civilians and has provoked numerous investigations into the impact of counter-insurgency operations on civilians.
The ICC must thoroughly investigate these accusations of human rights abuses and war crimes committed by U.S. or NATO forces. If the allegations were to be true, the appropriate charges must be filed to offer justice and peace to Afghan civilians suffering the heavy toll of the conflict’s violence.
According to a U.N. report released in July, more than 1,000 civilians died in the first six months of 2009 – a 24 percent increase from the previous year. Both anti-government agents (including the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents) and pro-government forces (including NATO) were responsible for the spike in civilian casualties. Airstrikes by pro-government forces remain the largest cause of death for civilians.
Although Afghanistan is party to the Rome statue which created the court and would be legally bound by its verdict, the ICC can only pursues charges if given permission by its government or the U.N. Security Council. Under the statue, the court can step in only when countries are themselves unwilling or unable to prosecute crimes for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.
Nonetheless, Afghan civilians deserve stability and protection. As the conflict worsens, they continue to be placed at risk of violence or collateral damage. U.S. and NATO forces must be held accountable for any and all abuses and war crimes.
For more information about the Afghanistan conflict’s impact on civilians, check out the U.N.’s in-depth report for 2008.
— Carolina Chacon, National Conflicts of Concern Education Coordinator