War crimes in Afghanistan, past and present

The US and British embassies in Kabul accused the Taliban of committing war crimes in southern Afghanistan by carrying out revenge murders of civilians. US Embassy Kabul took tweeter handle and accused the Taliban of killing dozens of civilians in the Spin Boldak area in Kandahar province, where intensive fight is going on between Afghan Forces and the Taliban to gain full control of this strategically important border city and crossing point. US Embassy further said in a series of tweets that these murders could constitute war crimes, must be investigated and responsible Taliban fighters/commanders must be held accountable. It further said that the Taliban’s leadership must be held responsible for the crimes of their fighters. All these tweets were endorsed by the UK Embassy Kabul on tweeter platform. On the other side, a Taliban Spokesman denied the charges and said that the tweets containing the accusations were baseless. Taliban claimed that they are indifferent to American Twitter messages and invited the human rights activists and media to investigate the matter on the spot.

According to reports, after the seizure of Spin Boldak border crossing by the Taliban fighters some two weeks back, Afghan Forces had launched an offensive to regain this important border crossing/city and a furious battle continued over the last week. US and UK, both allies for ever had accused Taliban of war crimes whereas Taliban not only rejected the accusation but also invited media and human rights defenders to visit the spot. In fact, ground realities need to be ascertained by independent observers. However, there may be a difference of perception of the two sides as according to western lexicon friendly fire does not come under war crimes.

As far as war crimes are concern, after United States invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, there had been innumerable incidents of indiscriminate bombing, firing, drone assassination, arrests, torture, and abuse of humanity on the hands of US military personnel, contractors, and mercenaries across Afghanistan over last two decades. Killing of civilians and soldiers of enemy groups by the Taliban, government forces and other militias were merely at the discretion of their commanders during the war in Afghanistan. On March 5, 2020, International Criminal Court (ICC) began its probe into the war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. Although, United States did not ratify the Rome Statute, Afghanistan is a signatory to it, therefore ICC is currently investigating war crimes in Afghanistan committed by either party after 2003.

The United States had always maintained that as it is not a signatory of Rome Statue therefore its citizens cannot be subject to ICC’s jurisdiction without its consent. Furthermore, the US uses its law of “American Service Members Protection Act 2002”, to evade the ICC’s conviction of its military personnel while serving abroad. In addition, the Trump administration had imposed sanctions against ICC officials in a bid to resist their investigations against US and Israel during the past. However, President Biden has revoked US sanctions against ICC’s officials during recent months. The accusations of war crimes by the adversaries remain a common policy of the warring parties to pressurize the opponent during the war however if both parties are serious to determine the fact, they must help the ICC in its ongoing investigations including the recent incident. Although, the world knows that both rivals remained involved in such nefarious actions therefore on one will take risk of involving the ICC in the matter.

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