The International Criminal Court (ICC) must prioritize and accelerate the delivery of justice for victims of crimes committed by the Taliban, as well as by other actors in Afghanistan before the 2021 takeover, said Amnesty International today, during the ICC’s annual Assembly of States Parties conference, which this year is held in New York from 4-14 December.
The organization is calling for significant further progress on the long-overdue ICC’s investigation in Afghanistan, which must be reported on publicly and transparently to enable the meaningful participation of local stakeholders including victims and survivors. In particular, the ICC must shed light on its progress and, wherever possible, the broad parameters of cases under investigation.
No victims deserve less justice than others.Smriti Singh, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for South Asia
“A culture of impunity for crimes under international law committed in Afghanistan has been prevalent for almost half a century of conflict. While the ICC’s decision to resume investigations last year provided genuine hope for thousands of victims of crimes under international law to gain long overdue access to justice, truth and reparations, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor needs to be consistent in following through on its commitment by providing progress in its investigations,” said Smriti Singh, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for South Asia.
“The country remains in crisis and the ICC is a critical institution in the pursuit of justice for all victims in Afghanistan. For many victims the ICC represents the only existing concrete avenue for justice and an end to impunity.”
At the Assembly of States Parties, Amnesty International is also calling on Rome Statute member states to ensure that the ICC is provided with the necessary resources to carry out effective investigations into crimes under international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity such as gender persecution. These include those committed against women and girls, Shia-Hazaras or other religious minorities, and those committed in the context of wars in Afghanistan before and after the Taliban takeover in 2021. Crucially, given significant challenges in investigating in Afghanistan, member states must commit to strengthening their cooperation with the ICC’s Afghanistan investigation.
Further, the ICC must be provided with adequate financial and technical resources to enable Afghan victims to meaningfully and effectively realize their rights at the Court.
While the ICC is crucial to ensure accountability in Afghanistan, complementary efforts such as the collection and preservation of evidence for future accountability processes and prosecutions at the domestic level in Afghanistan are critical. States that are party to the Rome Statute in particular should support such complementary efforts including by exercising universal jurisdiction and by supporting the establishment of an independent international accountability mechanism, such as at the UN Human Rights Council.
People in Afghanistan deserve an end to impunity and a road to justice, truth, and reparation.Smriti Singh
Previously, the Prosecutor’s decision in 2021 to deprioritize investigations into crimes allegedly committed by the United States military and CIA, as well as the former Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), had met severe criticism. This decision by the Prosecutor risks contributing to the perception of a selective system of international justice, where the interests of powerful states are prioritized over the interests of justice for victims of crimes under international law.
“Amnesty International continues to call for reconsidering the 2021 decision of the Prosecutor to deprioritize investigations into alleged war crimes by the United States and former Afghan national forces. It remains a stain on the face of international justice. No justification for ‘de-prioritization’ is acceptable. No victims deserve less justice than others,” said Smriti Singh.
“People in Afghanistan deserve an end to impunity and a road to justice, truth, and reparation.”
Afghanistan had been publicly under preliminary examination by the ICC from 2007 to 2017.
In 2023, Amnesty International documented the Taliban’s discriminatory restrictions on the rights of women and girls since the takeover in 2021 which, taken together with the Taliban’s use of systematic violence and abuse, may amount to the crime against humanity of gender persecution. Further, it documented the Taliban`s war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law in the context of the armed conflict with the National Resistance Front in Panjshir province, including the war crime of collective punishment against residents of Panjshir. Over many years, the organization has also documented several cases of crimes under international law committed by Afghan National Forces, the United States military and the Taliban.
Top image: 2023/07/17 President of Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of ICC (International Criminal Court) Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi attends Commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Rome Statute at UN Headquarters. Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images.