Court to Probe Afghan War Crimes

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Court to Probe Afghan War Crimes

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A U.S Marine from Delta Company of 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion patrols near the town of Khan Neshin in Rig district of Helmand province, southern Afghanistan September 8, 2009. U.S. President Barack Obama faces key decisions in the coming weeks on the war in Afghanistan. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)

The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal
Court (ICC) says he is gathering information about possible war crimes
in Afghanistan.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo says that he will be examining claims relating to both Nato soldiers and Taliban insurgents.

He said the court had received allegations from many sources, relating to attacks and collateral damage.

But the court will only become involved if Kabul or the UN Security Council ask it to look into allegations.

Afghanistan signed the treaty that established the Hague-based court.

Any war crime committed on its territory by either Afghan nationals or foreign forces can be investigated by the court.

The ICC began operating in 2002 and is the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.

Under
the treaty, the court can step in only when countries are unwilling or
unable to dispense justice themselves for genocide, crimes against
humanity or war crimes.

'Very open'

Mr
Moreno-Ocampo said that a preliminary examination of alleged war crimes
in Afghanistan was "exceedingly complex" and time-consuming because of
the difficulty of gathering information.

But he said non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the country had supplied him with information and evidence.

He
said he has requested information from human rights groups and groups
inside Afghanistan as well as the Afghan government - and would be
"very open" to information from foreign governments.

Mr
Moreno-Ocampo declined to provide details on what incidents the ICC was
looking into and said there was no certainty that the court would
charge anyone.

'Error of judgement'

"Before we
open an investigation, my office has a duty to conduct preliminary
examinations to define exactly whether or not I should open an
investigation," Mr Moreno-Ocampo said.

"What we are trying to assess is... different types of allegations,
including massive attacks, collateral damage exceeding what is
considered proper, and torture."

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said that
there would be no need for an ICC investigation if the Afghan
authorities launched credible proceedings of their own.

Last
week Afghan President Hamid Karzai described a Nato air strike in
Afghanistan which killed scores of civilians as a major "error of
judgement."

Afghan officials have frequently complained about
other Nato attacks which they say have resulted in large numbers of
civilian casualties.

Nato in turn has accused the Taliban and
al-Qaeda of various criminal acts in Afghanistan, including attacking
schools. using civilians as human shields and kidnapping and murdering
aid workers and innocent civilians.

The United States has the
most troops in Afghanistan. It is not a member of the ICC and American
officials have long argued that US soldiers abroad should be subject to
US law, not international treaties.

Correspondents say that
while members of President Barack Obama's administration have spoken
more positively about the court than their predecessors, it is doubtful
that US lawmakers would ever agree to give a foreign court blanket
jurisdiction over US troops.

Mr Moreno-Ocampo said his staff
were also engaged in preliminary enquiries on possible war crimes in
Georgia, Colombia, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, and by Israeli forces in
Gaza.

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