US, allies cannot avoid Afghan accountability for human rights violations
Published: Aug 25, 2021 10:49 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Getting involved in a targeted country in the name of morality, and leaving rashly when losing more than gaining - This is the West's habit, as they did in Afghanistan.  

The US and its allies' 20 years of embroilment in Afghanistan under the banner of counter-terrorism has failed to bring the country its much-needed peace and development, but only chaos, homelessness and misery. An estimated 75,000 Afghan military and police officers perished in direct war deaths and an additional 71,334 civilians died, Fortune reported on August 19. Between 2016 and 2020, nearly 1,600 children were killed in NATO-led airstrikes, according to Al Jazeera. As many as 6 million were forced to flee their homes since 2001, Business Insider reported on August 17. 

As uncertainties loom large in this war-torn country, the number of Afghan refugees continues to rise. Nonetheless, the US-led West have no will to shoulder its responsibilities but instead they have tried hard to shift the burden to Afghanistan's neighboring countries. What's worse, it is even thinking of sanctioning the Taliban regardless of the possibility that such sanction may generate more human rights violations in the country.

China has lashed out against the irresponsible acts of the US-led Western countries. Chinese envoy to the UN Chen Xu said on Tuesday at a special session of the UN Human Rights Council that the US, UK, Australia and other countries must be held accountable for human rights violations by their military in Afghanistan.

In 2009, US aircraft bombed villages in the Bala Boluk district of Afghanistan's western Farah Province, killing 140 villagers, 93 of whom were children, as an Afghan government investigation concluded. Then Afghan president Hamid Karzai demanded a halt to all airstrikes, while Washington rebuffed the plea. Late last year, a war crimes report alleged that Australia's special forces were involved in murdering 39 Afghan civilians between 2005 and 2016. After the report was released, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission also called on the UK government to establish an independent inquiry to review and investigate any allegation of unlawful killings by British special forces in Afghanistan. 

Zhao Xin, a lecturer at the School of International Law of the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that China's stance shows that it supports Afghanistan to hold the US and its allies accountable for human rights violations through international judicial systems. 

"The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) stipulates that the ICC can prosecute crimes against humanity, which are serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population. It can also prosecute war crimes which are grave breaches of the Geneva conventions in the context of armed conflict. Afghanistan, as a state, could demand compensation from the US at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Victims can sue certain commanders from either the US or US allies at the ICC," Zhao said.

There were precedents that a case was decided against the US. In 1986, the ICJ held that the US had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Sandinistas and by mining Nicaragua's harbors. The ruling was in favor of Nicaragua and against the US with the awarding of reparations to Nicaragua. Nonetheless, a month later, the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for full compliance with the ICJ ruling. The US also blocked enforcement of the judgment by the UN Security Council and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any compensation.

Zhao said that although the US refused to comply with the ruling, the case has set a precedent that holds a state legally responsible. It has permanent legal binding forces and can provide guidance for certain countries to hold others accountable. In addition, the ruling has managed to impose international opinion pressure on the US.

Human rights are not empty slogans, nor are they tools to interfere in other countries' domestic affairs. They are about improving lives and the dignity to live. This is what Afghan people need urgently right now in the process of the reconstruction of their country. Countries and their forces which have violated human rights and committed war crimes should be held accountable, and these countries should shoulder the main responsibility for accepting Afghan refugees.