Human Rights Watch reports that Afghan warlords who commit atrocities in the future may face prosecution by the new International Criminal Court (ICC). Afghanistan announced its decision to join the ICC last month, signaling the government’s increased efforts to weaken the power of feuding warlords. When the treaty takes force on May 1, 2003, the ICC will have the authority to prosecute and investigate war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan joins 88 ratifying parties and 139 signatories in supporting the Rome Statute, the treaty establishing the ICC that entered into force last July. The Bush administration has strongly opposed the ICC, claiming that it could subject US personnel to politically motivated prosecutions abroad. President Bush even went so far as to “unsign” the treaty, which had been signed by former President Clinton. The United States – the only industrialized country that has not signed the treaty – has negotiated bilateral immunity agreements with several countries, including Afghanistan. The ICC has widespread support in the US from groups such as the Feminist Majority because it identifies gender crimes and the crime of apartheid as crimes against humanity. Article 7 of the Rome Statute presents clear language that defines rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as gender crimes.
In addition, seven of the first 18 judges elected to the ICC this week were women. The voting procedure for the ICC was designed to ensure that the composition of the panel has a gender and geographical balance. The United States was not allowed to vote or submit any candidates to the court due to its strong opposition to the ICC.