The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court has revealed that he is probing atrocities allegedly committed by Western occupation forces in Afghanistan.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said: “What we are trying to assess is different types of allegations, including massive attacks, collateral damage exceeding what is considered proper, and torture.”
Mr Moreno-Ocampo declined to provide details on what incidents the ICC was looking into, but said that officials are examining the actions of both occupation forces and Afghan guerillas.
Last week a German colonel in Afghanistan called in a NATO air strike that killed up to 125 civilians in Kunduz.
Asked whether any NATO soldier is now a potential target of the court if they commit a war crime in a country under the court’s jurisdiction, he replied that a NATO legal adviser was at the court’s headquarters in The Hague last week discussing this issue.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo reported that NATO chiefs are now explaining to colonels that, in the future, they could end up before the court if they commit atrocities.
“That is the most important thing because these massive atrocities are planned – so if those who are planning know they will be prosecuted, they will do something different,” he said.
Mr Moreno-Ocampo emphasised that it was not certain that the court would be asked to charge anyone.
“Before we open an investigation, my office has a duty to conduct preliminary examinations to define exactly whether or not I should open an investigation,” he explained.
He noted that, as Afghanistan is a signatory of the treaty that established The Hague-based ICC, any war crime committed on its territory is of interest to the court.
But the US, which has the most troops in Afghanistan, is not a member of the ICC – and US officials have long insisted that US soldiers abroad should be subject to US law, not international treaties.
n The German officer who ordered the deadly bombing of fuel tankers in Afghanistan violated procedures, a preliminary NATO probe has found.
Colonel Georg Klein overstepped his authority and poorly evaluated the situation, according to a NATO inquiry which was ordered in light of last Friday’s bombardment in Kunduz province.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “deep regret” on Tuesday for any civilians killed, but said she “will not accept any premature judgements” on the raid.