International Criminal Court, ICC, office The Hague, Netherlands.

International Criminal Court, ICC, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo: CC BY-NC 2.0

When the United States wants to silence the ICC, our voices are needed in support

As the international Criminal Court has resumed its investigation of suspected war crimes in Afghanistan, Donald Trump has ordered sanctions against the court’s staff and those cooperating with it. By this action, USA is undermining International Humanitarian Law and denies justice for the Afghan people, blogs Secretary General Andreas Stefansson.

Swedish Committee for Afghanistan has repeatedly brought attention to the dire situation facing the civilian population of Afghanistan, where crimes against International Humanitarian Law continues to be committed by all parties to the conflict. We have also been directly affected by attacks and know how devastating it is for the continued development of Afghanistan. 

In 2017, when Chief Prosecutor Fatou Besouda of the International Criminal Court (ICC) applied to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, hope was brought to the Afghan people. Those who systematically had committed war crimes for decades would now be held accountable. Subject to investigation were the Taliban, Afghanistan’s military and American forces. 

Last year, the application for investigation was denied. The ICC made the assessment that the conditions for carrying out the investigation were too weak. Testimonies covering crimes against millions of Afghans were discarded. The decision came shortly after a statement by the American President, where he threatened Chief Prosecutor Besouda and her team with visa restrictions. Swedish Committee for Afghanistan was appalled by the threats and wondered why the international community remained silent.  

Last week, as a reaction to International Criminal Court’s decision to resume its investigation in Afghanistan, Donald Trump issued an executive order allowing for sanctions against ICC staff, their families and anyone who cooperates with the court in its investigations against Americans. 

These threats mark a sad step backwards in the international cooperation for human rights. I welcome that the EU, Sweden and others have been clear in their support for the International Criminal Court this time. Their voices are needed in support for those who were hoping for justice to be served after decades of war, but who now are in the risk of being silenced. 

The ICC is not fighting the “defenders of freedoms”, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently claimed. On the contrary, the court is fighting torture, attacks on civilians and extrajudicial executions. Donald Trumps orders are undermining International Humanitarian Law and justice for the Afghan people.

Andreas Stefansson | Secretary General

Swedish Committee for Afghanistan