ICC war crimes prosecutors seek to open Afghan probe

An Afghan soldier stands guard as authorities burn drugs in Helmand, Afghanistan, on Nov 2, 2017.
An Afghan soldier stands guard as authorities burn drugs in Helmand, Afghanistan, on Nov 2, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

THE HAGUE (AFP) - War crimes prosecutors said Friday (Nov 3) they will ask the International Criminal Court's (ICC) judges for permission to launch a full-blown probe into crimes committed in war-torn Afghanistan.

"In due course, I will file my request for judicial authorisation to open an investigation, submitting that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan," chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

"Following a meticulous preliminary examination... I have come to the conclusion that all legal criteria to commence an investigation has been met," the Hague-based court's chief prosecutor said.

During a lengthy probe first made public in 2007, the ICC has been looking at possible war crimes dating back to 2003 by the Taleban, Afghan government forces and international forces including US troops.

Bensouda a year ago said her office was "concluding its assessment" but postponed her decision in July after her investigators received "substantial" new information from Kabul.

In what is likely to become a hot-potato issue, Bensouda has previously said US forces may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan by torturing prisoners in what may have been a deliberate policy.

She stressed that the Taleban militia and the affiliated Haqqani network, Afghan government forces and US troops as well as the CIA all appeared to have carried out war crimes since the Islamic militia was ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001 which followed the Sept 11 attacks that year.

Bensouda blamed the Taleban and its allies for the deaths of some 17,000 civilians since 2007 to December 2015 in a brutal insurgency with "numerous attacks" on schools, hospitals and mosques.