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Activists urge progress in ICC’s Afghanistan probe

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo shows US troops in Afghanistan.

Activists have called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to speed up a probe into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.

Katherine Gallagher, a lawyer representing some 20 Afghan and international activists, said on Wednesday that the group would use a meeting with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to press the UN body on the probe.

Gallagher said the activists would now "really like to encourage the office of the prosecutor to move forward with this."

Guissou Jahangiri, the deputy president of the International Federation for Human Rights, also expressed hope that a meeting in The Hague on Thursday would help speed up the probe, which started in 2007.

"We are hoping that coming all the way here to The Hague we will have a strong message for the court," said Jahangiri, adding that the group of activists would also make "collective and individual suggestions" in the meeting with Bensouda.

The activists hope Bensouda could finally ask the judges in the ICC to authorize a full-scale inquiry into alleged crimes committed by international forces including US troops, the Taliban and Afghan government forces. If it is ordered, that would be the tribunal’s most complex and politically controversial investigation to date, especially given the implications it could have for Washington as the leading force behind the invasion of Afghanistan.

United States suspected for war crimes

Bensouda said in November 2016 that the United States could have carried out war crimes in Afghanistan.

ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (AFP photo)

Washington has not ratified the ICC’s Rome Statute, meaning that its nationals would be shielded from the reach of the tribunal and it would be unlikely for the US troops to face prosecution. However, the US would feel increased pressure for years of military involvement in Afghanistan if troops are found guilty of war crimes.

"To the people of Afghanistan, to the victims in Afghanistan, that means justice matters," said Huma Saeed, another Afghan human rights worker, adding, "It means the international community can not let things go unnoticed.”

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