More than one million statements from Afghan people and organizations have been submitted to the International Criminal Court alleging war crimes were committed by several actors in the country including the U.S. military, the CIA, Afghan forces and the Taliban, local groups working with the Hague-based tribunal said Friday.
Abdul Wadood Pedram, an official at the Kabul-based Human Rights and Eradication of Violence Organization, told the Associated Press Friday that his group has knowledge of the groups and individuals who submitted the 1.17 million statements to the court over the past three months.
"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 began accepting statements in November after the court’s prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, presented a request to open a formal investigation into possible international crimes committed in Afghanistan since it became a member of the court in May 2003, few years after the U.S.-led intervention.
The court accepted testimonies until Jan. 31 and will now evaluate the statements to decide if the war crimes investigation requested Bensouda should get the greenlight. Pedram told the AP that since in some cases one statement represents multiple people or whole village, the number of people seeking the war crimes probe could amount to several millions.
Individuals and organizations who have spoken to media over the past few months documented many cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and persecution by local and foreign actors including warlords connected to the Afghan government as well as the CIA and the U.S. military.
Among those named in the statements, according to the BBC, is Afghan Vice-President General Abdul Rashid Dostum, currently exiled in Turkey, who has previously worked with U.S. Special Forces and the CIA and has been linked to massacres.
Others said that Taliban commanders were in fact connected to the government and thus have received total impunity for the crimes they committed against locals, specially Shittes.
Bensouda said evidence existed of war crimes committed "by members of the United States armed forces on the territory of Afghanistan, and by members of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in secret detention facilities in Afghanistan," according to the AP report. The secret detention facilities were operated mostly between 2003 and 2004, she said.
The ICC can only prosecute countries that are party to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court in 2002. While the U.S. is not a signatory to the statue, its citizens can be tried for crimes they committed in countries that are party to the Rome treaty.
In an article for the British newspaper The Guardian Friday, Katherine Gallagher, a senior staff attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, argued that the Afghanistan case could be a test for proving the effectiveness of the young court and hoped the ICC judges would decide to approve the probe.
“To date, no high-level U.S. official from the civilian leadership, military, CIA, or private contractor has been prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. An ICC investigation could finally change that – bringing an end to the impunity US officials have enjoyed and, critically, some measure of redress to victims of the U.S. torture program,” Gallagher stressed.