Amid the growing insecurity in Afghanistan with civilian casualties at its peak, there have been numerous reports of atrocities perpetrated by all sides into the conflict – namely the Afghan government, the US and the Taliban – against innocent Afghan people. Miserably, such war crimes go unpunished almost all the time. This has to be stopped, but unfortunately on November 14, the US President Donald Trump had granted presidential pardon and clemency to two US Army officers convicted and charged with war crimes in Afghanistan. Further adding to this misfortune of Afghans, a recent report by BBC revealed that the UK government and armed forces allegedly covered up the killing of civilians by British troops in the war-torn country.
One of the officers who have been awarded leniency by President Trump had killed two motorcyclists and the other one had been charged with the unlawful killing of a civilian and was facing court-martial. Nonetheless, in spite of plausible evidence, they were freed without any repercussions for their crimes with President Trump reportedly ignoring Pentagon’s advice to “stay out.” Trump pursued his personal whim rather than any legal procedure although he was advised by American military leaders that a presidential pardon could “potentially damage the confidence of US allies and partners who host US troops.”
Such actions of awarding pardons and covering up atrocities are utter betrayal with the Afghan civilians and with the victims who have been affected by such misdeeds. There are legal platforms for the redressal of such crimes such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. However, President Trump acted arbitrarily in this regard – something that he has no right to do. He should revisit his decision, the perpetrators should be prosecuted for the illegal killings and he shouldn’t make way for brazen impunity and second chances because the law should always be enforced. Otherwise, such actions of his will lead to the recurrence of such crimes with the Afghan civilians bearing the brunt. Meanwhile, the Afghan government and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), as well as the international community, should not remain silent regarding Trump’s decision and must demand clarification. Even though Afghanistan has a membership in the ICC, most war crime cases are not investigated and are just shelved regrettably. On the part of ICC, it should spring into action, take this crucial matter seriously and oppose it and thus avoid an outrage of Afghans.