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Ireland and Afghanistan

In June of this year the Minister for Defence confirmed that Irish troops were to remain in Afghanistan and Kosovo for at least another year. This coincided with the accession of Afghanistan to the Two Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions. While the elements of the Protocols that have already become part of customary international law were always in force in Afghanistan once the Additional Protocols come into force in December of this year it will strengthen the application of these rules to activities of both the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)  of which Ireland is a part and the Government forces of Afghanistan. There are currently 7  Irish personnel in Afghanistan. The Additional Protocols apply directly between insurgents and the state therefore it will not be directly applicable to ISAF, however in the case of joint operations or operations under the direction of ISAF it is possible that members of ISAF may be held accountable for actions that are considered in breach. This comes quickly after news that the International Criminal Court is looking at possible war crimes prosecutions against members of the Taliban,al Qaeda, as well as ISAF forces.

While there has been no evidence to suggest that Irish personnel have been involved in any incident which the ICC is looking into it does raise questions surrounding the deployment of forces as part of a large international groups and where responsibility lies. Ireland has a long and very proud history of involvement with UN peacekeeping groups such as in the Congo or the Lebanon. Its involvement in both Kosovo and Afghanistan is outside this more traditional remit and presents broader questions of command responsibility and the conditions under which Ireland takes part in these international actions. Ireland has acceded to the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols incorporating them into Irish law under the Geneva Conventions Act 1962 and the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1998 as well as to the International Criminal Court. If prosecutions against ISAF do occur in Afghanistan it will be interesting to see how the ICC will deal with responsibility among the many different forces currently deployed in Afghanistan.

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