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Ministers meet with ICC prosecutor to discuss crimes against Afghans

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(Last Updated On: May 9, 2021)

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda and her team met a high-level delegation from Afghanistan, including Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar, in a bid to achieve justice for the Afghan people by holding perpetrators of “atrocity crimes” accountable.

According to a statement issued by the ICC, a full day of discussions were held with officials from the foreign ministry, the justice ministry, the Attorney General’s Office, the Supreme Court and the National Security Department.

At the meeting, detailed presentations provided further insights into investigative steps taken or planned by the Afghan authorities and an opportunity for the ICC to seek clarifications on a number of discussion points, the statement read.

Bensouda and Atmar pledged to work together.

“I have great admiration for the courage and resilience of the people of Afghanistan who have withstood tremendous adversity through decades of conflict and violence. They deserve tangible justice without delay”, stated Bensouda.

“I look forward to continuing our constructive exchanges with the Government of Afghanistan, which was exemplified by today’s discussions, as we work towards determining how justice may best be served through joint collaborative efforts with full commitment to our respective independent duties and responsibilities under the Rome Statute”, she added.

Atmar in turn said “this was a historic and very constructive meeting. The Government of Afghanistan is grateful to the ICC Prosecutor for hosting our high-level delegation to address the investigation and prosecution of all international crimes in Afghanistan”.

He also said that “at this decisive moment for our country’s future, we have made encouraging progress in charting the way forward to ensure that no crimes will go unpunished. With our government’s unwavering commitment to human rights and justice, we are confident that with full cooperation with the Prosecutor, we can jointly advance the cause of justice for all of the victims of the long and devastating conflict.”

Zabihullah Karimullah, Afghanistan’s Attorney General who also participated at the meeting added: “Our meeting with the ICC Prosecutor was very useful for discussing the constructive ways in which we can cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor and for sharing information about the cases that Afghanistan is investigating and prosecuting at all levels. We look forward to continuing our positive exchanges and collaboration to guarantee that there will be no impunity for international crimes.”

The ICC meanwhile said it was appreciative of Afghanistan’s expressed commitment and the steps taken towards addressing accountability for atrocity crimes and securing justice for victims in Afghanistan in close collaboration with the ICC.

The ICC conducts independent and impartial preliminary examinations, investigations and prosecutions of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

Since 2003, the Office has been conducting investigations in multiple situations within the ICC’s jurisdiction, namely in Uganda; the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Darfur, Sudan; the Central African Republic (two distinct situations); Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; Georgia, Burundi; Bangladesh/Myanmar, Afghanistan and Palestine.

The Office is also currently conducting preliminary examinations relating to the situations in Bolivia; Colombia; Guinea; the Philippines; and Venezuela; and has recently completed its preliminary examinations of the situations in Ukraine and Nigeria, which are pending requests to seek authorisation to proceed to investigation.

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Talking to the IEA is the ‘only way forward’, UNAMA official

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

The devastating earthquake on Wednesday is just one of several emergencies facing Afghanistan, and continued dialogue with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities remains the only way to address ongoing challenges in the country, the UN Security Council heard on Thursday. 

Before being briefed by Ramiz Alakbarov, Acting Special Representative at the UN’s Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, and Martin Griffiths, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator ambassadors stood and observed a minute of silence for the victims of Wednesday’s deadly earthquake. 

Alakbarov provided an update on the earthquake, before turning to the ongoing human rights, economic and humanitarian challenges the country is facing. 

He said despite difficulties, “we firmly continue to believe that a strategy of continued engagement and dialogue remains to be the only way forward for the sake of the Afghan people, as well as for the sake of regional and international security.” 

He also said the human rights situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. 

He stated that the economic crisis is perhaps the single most important issue in Afghanistan, and a potential driver of conflict and misery. It is estimated the economy contracted by up to 40 percent since August last year. 

Unemployment could reach 40 percent this year, up from 13 percent in 2021, while the official poverty rate could climb as high as 97 percent he said. 

“If the economy is not able to recover and grow meaningfully and sustainably, then the Afghan people will face repeated humanitarian crises; potentially spurring mass migration and making conditions ripe for radicalization and renewed armed conflict,” he warned. 

According to him, Afghanistan also remains highly vulnerable to future climate and geopolitical shocks. Drought, floods, disease outbreaks affecting both people and livestock, as well as natural disasters like the earthquake, are further deepening vulnerabilities. 

Alakbarov stressed the need to prioritize rural areas, with focus on agricultural and food systems to prevent hunger. This will also help to reduce child labour, improve health outcomes, and create the environment that will enable social development and change. 

“It will also pave the way for substitution agriculture to replace the poppy cultivation, allowing us to capitalize on the de facto authority’s recent ban on poppy and narcotic cultivation,” he said.  

“While doing so we need to continue to provide adequate attention to clearance of widely unexploded ordnance of war. This bottom-up approach to economic recovery is shared by the de facto authorities and would help the most vulnerable.” 

He said armed opposition attacks against the de facto authorities doubled in May, compared to the previous month and that while the number of Daesh attacks has generally decreased, their geographic scope has widened from six to 11 provinces.  

“We cannot exclude the possibility of increased instability if peoples’ rights are denied and if they do not see themselves in their government,” he said. 

Alakbarov said in the coming month, the UN will seek to promote political consultation and inclusion, and engagement with the IEA will continue. 

Addressing humanitarian response, Alakbarov highlighted how aid partners have reached some 20 million Afghans between January and April this year alone, including nearly 250,000 returnees and some 95,000 people affected by floods and weather-related events. 

However, the humanitarian crisis persists, and sustained support will be needed through next year, he said.

Griffiths, the UN’s relief chief meanwhile reported that more than 190 aid organizations are operating in Afghanistan, where nearly half the population, 19 million people, are facing food insecurity. 

This includes more than six million people at emergency level – the highest number of any country in the world at risk of famine-like conditions, he said. 

Griffiths also underscored the pressing need for funding. A $4.4 billion humanitarian plan for Afghanistan is only one-third funded, despite pledges of $2.4 billion made at the launch in March. 

 

 

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In major security shakeup, Iran replaces IRGC intelligence chief

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of the armed forces, has replaced its intelligence chief Hossein Taeb in a surprise shakeup.

The major shakeup in the IRGC’s intelligence apparatus comes after a series of recent incidents inside Iran, including sabotage and cyberattacks, assassinations, and the mysterious killings of IRGC members as well as scientists and engineers, RFE/RL reported Friday.

Tehran has blamed some of the incidents on Israel, its regional foe.

The IRGC said Taeb would be replaced by General Mohammad Kazemi, who was previously in charge of the IRGC’s Intelligence Protection Unit, which focuses on surveillance within the force.

The IRGC did not say why Taeb, who had held the post since 2009, was removed. It added that Taeb had been appointed as an adviser to IRGC chief Major General Hossein Salami, suggesting he was demoted, RFE/RL reported.

 

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Remote villages destroyed, families decimated in eastern Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2022)

Scenes of utter devastation continued to emerge Friday in the remote Gayan district of Paktika province, as emergency efforts to treat the injured and provide essential aid continued.

In the village of Slasha, a young girl sat on the rubble of what was once her home, and held on tightly to her young brother who sat on her lap.

Najia told Ariana News at the scene that her mother and two sisters had been killed in the early hours of Wednesday morning when their house collapsed during the quake.

Another resident, Momen Khan, said that of the 30 villages in the district, at least six had been completely destroyed. He said that over 350 people were killed in these six villages.

Another child, of just four, sat with two other girls on rubble in Khanaden village. The four-year-old, Alima, said her mother and three sisters had been killed while her father and another two sisters were injured.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of Slasha village lay the newly laid out cemetery, with jagged rocks marking each grave. It was here where survivors hurriedly buried their loved ones Thursday, in keeping with Muslim tradition.

Residents said that 80 people had been buried here on Thursday, all of whom had lived in just two villages in the area.

On Friday morning, grieving survivors could be seen sitting at some of the graves as they struggled to come to terms with the tragedy.

One survivor, 65-year-old Abdullah Abed, sat at one grave and said he had lost 12 members of his immediate family in Wednesday’s quake.

Pointing at two graves, he said: “My daughter and my grandson are buried there.”

Again he pointed to more graves and said: “Here, two of my brother’s wives are buried,” adding “and there two of my nephews are buried”.

Jan Mohammad, from Slasha village, said 30 people were killed in his village alone, while Sayed Rahman said he lost five of his immediate family members.

For these survivors, not only have they lost their loved ones but also their homes and livestock.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) was however quick to respond to the crisis and did not hesitate to call for help.

So much so that Tony Lanzer, the former UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan said Friday that the speed of help provided by this regime in Kabul was quicker than any help provided by the former government in similar circumstances in the past.

Meanwhile, Acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani visited quake-hit areas and assured locals they would get help.

He said that although the devastation has happened in remote areas which lack resources, the government is working to address the needs of those affected.

The response to the IEA’s calls for help have so far been positive and emergency aid has been sent in by a number of countries including Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, India, Qatar and the UAE.

Flights are landing directly in Khost in order to speed up the process.

Aid organizations and NGOs have also stepped in to help provide shelter, clothing, blankets and even medical facilities.

While help is being provided, Paktika residents were however subjected to another quake early Friday morning – a 4.3 magnitude temblor.

Eleven others were injured, local officials said.

According to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, the quake happened at 6:13 a.m. with its epicenter 55 kilometers south-southwest of Khost province.

Khost was the epicenter of Wednesday’s 6.1-magnitude earthquake that killed over 1,000 people and injured 2,000 others. It was the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan in two decades.

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