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ICC prosecutor meets with Afghans on war crimes claims

Published on May 09, 2021

The outgoing prosecutor of the International Criminal Court met with a high-level Afghan delegation to discuss allegations of war crimes in the country, the court said Sunday.

Fatou Bensouda met with the delegation led by Afghanistan’s foreign and justice ministers on Friday in The Hague, where the court is based, and the day-long discussions were “productive,” the court said in a statement.

Bensouda last year launched an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, notably by US military personnel.

The Trump administration had subsequently imposed sanctions on the top prosecutor, but the measures were revoked in April after US President Joe Biden took office.

Friday’s meeting was organised following Afghanistan’s request in March last year for the court to defer its investigation, the court statement said.

“At the meeting, detailed presentations provided further insights into investigative steps taken or planned by the national authorities in Afghanistan and an opportunity for the (prosecutor’s office) to seek clarifications on a number of discussion points,” it added.

The statement said the Afghan delegation pledged to work with the court to hold accountable those responsible for atrocities.

“I have great admiration for the courage and resilience of the people of Afghanistan who have withstood tremendous adversity through decades of conflict and violence,” Bensouda was quoted as saying. “They deserve tangible justice without delay.”

Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar described the meeting as “historic” and “very constructive”.

“At this decisive moment for our country’s future, we have made encouraging progress in charting the way forward to ensure that no crimes will go unpunished,” he added.

The Gambian-born Bensouda is leaving her job in June and will be replaced by British human rights lawyer Karim Khan.

The ICC, set up in 2002 to bring to justice those behind war crimes, is a court of last resort that seeks to complement, not replace, national Courts.