THE HAGUE (Dispatches) – Lawyers representing victims of the Afghanistan conflict on Wednesday urged the International Criminal Court to allow a war crimes investigation that would include scrutinizing the actions of U.S. forces.
ICC judges in April rejected the request of prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to examine atrocities allegedly committed in the conflict between 2003 and 2004, including by U.S. troops, Afghan forces and the Taliban.
Judges argued that a successful prosecution was unlikely.
The prosecution has appealed that decision and is arguing the case in three days of hearings before a panel of appeals judges in The Hague.
Lawyer Fergal Gaynor called the hearings "an historic day for accountability in Afghanistan”. The 82 victims he represented were "united” in wanting an investigation, he said.
U.S. forces and other foreign troops intervened in Afghanistan in 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. In what has become the United States’ longest war, about 13,000 U.S. troops remain there.
More than 32,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.
One of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyers will address the court.
Trump has denounced the ICC, the world’s only permanent war crimes court, for its "broad, unaccountable, prosecutorial powers”. Washington revoked U.S. travel visas for ICC personnel in response to its work on Afghanistan.
Another legal representative of victims, Katherine Gallagher, who acts for two Guantanamo Bay detainees, stressed that so far no high-level U.S. official has been held accountable for alleged violations of the rules of war in Afghanistan or at CIA "black” sites.