Former UN rights expert urges Afghanistan war crimes investigation

[JURIST] Former UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston [JURIST news archive] on Sunday called for an investigation [Guardian report] into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. In his first interview since stepping down from his UN position, Alston urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] to investigate conduct by both the Taliban [CFR backgrounder] and US and British military forces and suggested the UNHRC model the inquiry after the investigation [JURIST report] of the Israeli military's actions in the Gaza Strip last year. In the interview, Alston expressed serious concern over the lack of prosecution for alleged war crimes and the number of civilian deaths during the war in Afghanistan, especially alleged civilian killings by US and British forces, which were recently revealed [JURIST report] in secret military files published by WikiLeaks [website]. Alston said the UNHRC is in a better position to handle the investigation than the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] because the US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute [text, PDF] and cannot be held responsible by any ICC investigation:

If states are not carrying out reasonably neutral investigations and prosecutions of what appear to be serious violations, it does leave open the possibility that the international community should be intervening in some way. The problem is that the ICC can't hold the Taliban to account, and nor can they hold the Americans to account in any practical sense.
Unlike the US, Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute, giving the ICC jurisdiction over war crimes committed on Afghan territory. More than 1,000 Afghan civilian deaths [JURIST news archive] have occurred in the first six months of 2010.

In August, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] called for the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan to be tried for war crimes [JURIST report] for targeting civilians. The statement was released following the 2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict [text; UN News Centre report] from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website]. The report found that, in the first six months of 2010, there were 3,268 civilian deaths and injuries, 76 percent of which were attributed to the Taliban and allied groups fighting NATO forces and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official profile]. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the Afghan government to retract a law granting amnesty [JURIST report] for war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the Taliban and others prior to December 2001. The law contradicted a plan adopted by the Afghan government [JURIST report] in 2005 to investigate war crimes and human rights violations committed while the Taliban controlled the government.

 

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