Afghanistan: ICC authorizes historic investigation

Responding to the International Criminal Court’s decision to open an investigation into international crimes in Afghanistan, Amnesty International’s Head of International Justice, Solomon Sacco, said:

“This is an historic moment where the International Criminal Court has reversed a terrible mistake and decided to stand by the victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by all sides to the conflict in Afghanistan.

The ICC represents the first true hope of justice for the victims of conflict, who have been shamefully ignored for years

Solomon Sacco, Head of International Justice

“The ICC represents the first true hope of justice for the victims of conflict, who have been shamefully ignored for years, including in the recent peace agreement that has nothing to say about the crimes committed against them.

“This is a decision that will be extremely popular with those fighting for justice and deeply unpopular with the parties to the conflict, including powerful states that attempted to bully the court and who have eluded it for so long. It deserves everyone’s support.”


The present decision concerns the appeal of the Prosecutor against the 12 April Decision of Pre-Trial Chamber II. Between 4-6 December 2019, a hearing was held before the ICC Appeals Chamber, which heard oral arguments related to this appeal.

On 20 November 2017, the ICC Prosecutor requested authorisation from the Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in relation to the armed conflict in Afghanistan. Her request pertains to crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan since 1 May 2003 by all sides in the conflict, including the Taliban and its affiliates, the Afghan government forces and international forces, including US military forces.

On 12 April 2019, the PTC unanimously rejected the Prosecutor’s request, providing that an ICC investigation would not serve the interests of justice. The PTC presumptuously insisted the investigation would not receive cooperation if it were opened, including from Afghanistan, and speciously stressed the need for the Court to prioritise its resources towards investigations that have a better chance of succeeding, among other reasons.

Following this decision, Amnesty International issued a number of statements, criticising the Chamber’s decision and calling on the Prosecutor to appeal the decision. The Prosecutor appealed the 12 April decision in June 2019, and in September 2019, leave to appeal was granted. Amnesty International submitted written observations as amicus curiae in the appeal – these can be accessed here.