PARIS (INP): The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested judicial authorization Friday to begin a formal investigation into possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, a probe that could implicate American forces.
“For decades, the people of Afghanistan have endured the scourge of armed conflict,” Fatou Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer who has served as the ICC’s chief prosecutor since 2012, said in a statement. Her office is pushing to open an investigation because “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed” in Afghanistan, she said.
Following jurisdictional parameters, Bensouda clarified that any resulting investigation would consider only alleged war crimes committed on Afghan soil after May 1, 2003. However, alleged crimes committed since July 1, 2002, in other states but that were “closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan” also would be considered, she said.
Rights activists applauded the announcement. “We welcome the ICC President’s action convening a pre-trial chamber of judges to consider the Prosecutor’s request to begin an investigation in Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch, a prominent advocacy group, said in a statement.
In her brief, open-ended statement, Bensouda did not expressly name U.S. or NATO forces as direct parties to be investigated. She wrote that “the ultimate focus will be upon those most responsible for the most serious crimes allegedly committed in connection with the situation in Afghanistan.”