Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the decision today by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Appeals Chamber to authorize an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, including abuses committed by the U.S. armed forces and intelligence personnel, the Taliban, Afghan National Security Forces, and other combatants in the country.
The ICC probe will also investigate potential war crimes such as torture or inhuman treatment conducted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in secret detention facilities in Afghanistan, as well as in CIA black sites in Poland, Lithuania, and Romania.
PHR has documented severe human rights violations in Afghanistan since 1997, including the discovery and forensic examination of mass graves. PHR has also worked to develop local capacity in Afghanistan to use forensic science to document crimes against humanity. PHR has also led a two-decades long campaign to expose, document, and end torture by the U.S. government, demanding justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators.
The following statement is attributable to Karen Naimer, PHR’s deputy director of programs:
“Today’s ruling marks an important milestone for international justice. For far too long, impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity has reigned and any form of meaningful accountability has been out of reach.
“The ICC decision to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan is potentially a major turning point for the pursuit of truth, justice, and accountability. No one is above the law, regardless of how powerful or how influential.
“The court will now rely on rigorous, independent, methodical research and evidence to uncover the facts and name the responsible parties for some of the prolific violent acts committed in Afghanistan since May 2003, and in other territories since July 2002.
“This marks a major opportunity for the ICC to hold the culpable individuals and institutions accountable, reaffirming the vital role of the court in the worldwide pursuit of justice for humanity’s most atrocious acts.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.