Hold Western military powers to account (and the Hague beckons)

The message is clear; Western powers can’t be exempt from thorough examinations of their war crimes. Hardly a revolutionary idea and yet such plans are virtually absent from “polite” discussions:

A United Nations investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan should be launched to identify and prosecute individuals responsible, says a former top-ranking UN official on extrajudicial killings.

Philip Alston called for the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the “conduct of the war” in Afghanistan amid rising concern over the level of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces, including Britain, and by the Taliban. It should be modelled, he said, on the inquiry into Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.

In his first interview since stepping down last month after six years as the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Alston said the lack of prosecutions concerning alleged war crimes was a major cause of concern because of the large number of Afghan civilians killed in the conflict.

“If states are not carrying out reasonably neutral investigations and prosecutions of what appear to be serious violations, it does leave open the possibility that the international community should be intervening in some way.

“An interesting proposal, but one that would draw disdain, no doubt, would be for some sort of international inquiry into the conduct of the war in Afghanistan, along the lines of Gaza. Otherwise, who is going to do a thorough investigation and track down where the decisions were actually taken?”