Since the International Criminal Court began collecting material three months ago for a possible war crimes case involving Afghanistan, it has gotten a staggering 1.17 million statements from Afghans who say they were victims.
The statements include accounts of alleged atrocities not only by groups like the Taliban and the Islamic State group, but also involving Afghan Security Forces and government-affiliated warlords, the U.S.-led coalition, and foreign and domestic spy agencies, said Abdul Wadood Pedram of the Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organization.
Based in part on the many statements, ICC judges in The Hague would then have to decide whether to seek a war crimes investigation. Its uncertain when that decision will be made.
The statements were collected between November 20, 2017, and January 31, 2018, by organizations based in Europe and Afghanistan and sent to the ICC, Pedram said.
Because one statement might include multiple victims and one organisation might represent thousands of victim statements, the number of Afghans seeking justice from the ICC could be several million.
“It is shocking there are so many,” Pedram said, noting that in some instances, whole villages were represented. “It shows how the justice system in Afghanistan is not bringing justice for the victims and their families.” The ICC did not give details about the victims or those providing the information.
“I have the names of the organisations, but because of the security issues, we dont want to name them because they will be targeted,” said Pedram, whose group is based in Kabul.
Many of the representations include statements involving multiple victims, which could be the result of suicide bombings, targeted killings or airstrikes, he said.
Among those alleging war crimes is a man who asked The Associated Press to be identified only by his first name, Shoaib, because he fears for his safety.
Shoaib said his father, Naimatullah, was on a bus in Dawalat Yar district in Afghanistans central Ghor Province in 2014 when a band of gunmen stopped it and two other buses, forced the passengers off and told them to hand over their identity cards. The 14 Shiites among them were separated from the rest and killed, one by one, he said.
The slayings outraged the country. A Taliban commander was soon arrested and brought before the media, but no news about a trial or punishment was ever reported, said Shoaib, who is in his 20s.
Displaying a photo of the man he believes killed his father, Shoaib said he doesnt go to the authorities for information about the incident because the commander had connections with the police and the local government administration. Shoaib is still afraid.
“Please don’t say where I live, or show my face,” he implored a reporter. “What if they find me? There is no protection in Afghanistan,” he said.
“Everybody knows that they have connection in the government,” he added. “I think in Afghanistan, if you have money, then you can give it to anyone, anywhere, to do anything.” Several powerful warlords, many of whom came to power after the collapse of the Taliban in 2001 following the US-led intervention, are among those alleged to have carried out war crimes, said Pedram, who also is cautious about releasing any names.
After receiving death threats last year, Pedram fled Kabul briefly and now keeps a lower profile, no longer speaking to local media.
“The warlords are all here. You have to be very careful,” he said. “In the morning, I kiss my little son goodbye, I kiss my wife goodbye because I dont know what will happen to me and when, or if I will see them again.”
Established in 2002, the ICC is the worlds first permanent court set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The ICC can only investigate any crimes in Afghanistan after May 2003, when the country ratified the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court.
Former President Bill Clinton signed the treaty, but President George W. Bush renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.
In November, when ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought judicial authorization to begin the investigation, she said the court had been looking into possible war crimes in Afghanistan since 2006. AP UZM
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