Statement of ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, following the Appeals Chamber’s decision authorising an investigation into the Situation in Afghanistan.
Earlier today, the Judges of the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or the “Court”) unanimously decided to authorize my Office to commence an investigation into alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan since 1 May 2003, as well as other alleged crimes that have a nexus to the armed conflict in Afghanistan but committed on the territory of other State Parties in the period since 1 July 2002.
Following my Office’s appeal, and the proceedings that followed, the Appeals Chamber overturned the finding of Pre-Trial Chamber II of 12 April 2019 that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice. After noting that the Pre-Trial Chamber had otherwise entered all the requisite findings under article 15(4) of the Rome Statute, it amended the impugned decision by itself authorising the investigation based on the parameters set out in the Office’s authorisation request.
In its judgment, the Appeals Chamber also clarified that the scope of the investigation was not restricted to investigating only those incidents specifically mentioned in my authorization request, but could investigate any alleged crime within the jurisdiction of the Court occurring within the parameters of the authorised situation.
In addition to that fundamental ruling, the Appeals Chamber offered valuable guidance as to the state of the law on a number of issues of critical importance for the Prosecutor’s and the Court’s examination of future preliminary examinations, including on the interests of justice assessment.
I welcome the decision of the Appeals Chamber. Today, is an important day for the cause of justice in the situation of Afghanistan, for the Court, and for international criminal justice more broadly.
The Office will now proceed to conduct a diligent and thorough investigation into this Situation. The investigation will be independent, impartial and objective. This is what the Office is legally mandated to do, and it is what we are committed to doing.
All the decisions that I, as Prosecutor, will take will be strictly in accordance with my mandate, as stipulated in the Rome Statute establishing the ICC.
My Office will follow the evidence. There are no timelines for the duration of the investigation. Each investigation at the ICC is unique and has its own complexities.
We remain committed to ensuring the investigation advances as effectively and as efficiently as possible.
As we undertake this work, we count on the full support and cooperation of all parties throughout the investigation. In the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate, my Office welcomes the opportunity to engage with all parties to the conflict to advance its investigations. In this respect, I particularly look forward to continuing a constructive and collaborative exchange with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to determine how justice may best be served under the shared framework of complementary domestic and international action.
Procedurally, under article 18(1) of the Rome Statute, my Office is now required to provide formal notice to all State Parties, as well as those States that would normally exercise jurisdiction over the crimes concerned.
The many victims of atrocious crimes committed in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan deserve to finally have justice. Today, they are one step closer to that coveted outcome.