Afghanistan today announced its decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), signaling the government’s increased efforts to weaken the power of feuding warlords, reported the Reuters English News Service. Alluding to repeated human rights violations committed by opposing warlord factions, Presidential spokesman Sayed Fazi Akbar told Reuters English, “Based on the evidence delivered to us and on the principles of the ICC, we will submit the criminals for trial.”
Afghanistan joins 87 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. 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.
Afghanistan’s accession to the ICC follows President Hamid Karzai’s move Saturday, establishing four commissions tasked with disarming warlord militias and building the national army. The four commissions aim to develop a national army 70,000-strong, but skeptics question the willingness of factional fighters to disarm.
Meanwhile, Afghan women and girls continue to face uncertainty. Despite advancements such as United Nations Development Fund for Women’s (UNIFEM) creation of the country’s first association for female judges, the Afghan Women Judges Association (AWJA), women still suffer setbacks. In Herat, the warlord Ismail Khan—claiming to uphold Islamic principles—recently instituted new restrictions, banning women from privately run courses taught by men. Last year, Khan banned wedding parties in city restaurants and also prohibited women from visiting parks at night or riding in a car unchaperoned by a close male relative, according to Reuters.
The Feminist Majority and others urge the Bush administration to support the expansion of international peacekeeping troops beyond and within Kabul.