Why Is Germany Putting an Afghan Man on Trial for War Crimes?


A former Afghan military officer is on trial in Munich this week, accused of torturing captured fighters in late 2013 and early 2014. The 26-year-old allegedly mocked, defiled, and desecrated the corpse of an enemy commander in front of civilians.

Since 2002, the International Criminal Code has been incorporated into the German legal system. It enables the German judiciary to lead prosecutions of certain crimes that violate international law, even if they were not committed on German soil. The most serious crimes that the law applies to are genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

The German Federal Public Prosecutor handles these cases and the specialized War Crime Unit of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) supports the lawyers working on the trials. The BKA unit is Germany's central body used to combat war crimes.

German authorities have increasingly turned to the International Criminal Code since 2015, when significant numbers of refugees began arriving in the country — including both victims and perpetrators of war crimes. A German parliamentary inquiry found that over the past five years, the BKA has received more than 5,000 leads to possible involvement in war crimes among asylum-seekers. Those suspected of involvement came from Syria, Afghanistan, The Gambia, and Iraq; of these, some 129 cases were investigated.

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