Danish Siddiqui: Family of Slain Journalist Takes Taliban to ICC

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New Delhi: The family of Danish Siddiqui, a Reuters photojournalist who was killed in Afghanistan last year, has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Taliban, lawyer Avi Singh, representing Siddiqui’s family, said.

The complaint identifies seven people accused, including unnamed local commanders, as the perpetrators of the murder, as well as the Taliban’s leadership.

Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada, the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy prime minister, and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, minister of defence, have all been accused in the complaint.

“… We have just filed before the International Criminal Court a communication addressing the war crimes and crimes against humanity in context to what happened to Danish Siddiqui,” Singh said, adding that “there is sufficient independent evidence that he was tortured, murdered and his body was mutilated”.

Siddiqui, who won 2018 the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Rohingya refugee crisis, was killed last July while reporting in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

Several reports and investigations have corroborated disturbing details of the illegal detention, torture and murder of Siddiqui and the mutilation of his body. An Afghan commando, Sediq Karzai, was also killed alongside the journalist.

“The Taliban had refused to return his body to the authorities. We had to make several appeals to their leaders, and reasoned that he was Muslim and deserved a respectable burial,” a local civil activist involved with the investigations last year, said.

“Eventually, they agreed to hand over his body to the ICRC (International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement) who gave it to the local hospital. But when it arrived, it was so badly desecrated that it could not be identified.

“The doctor attending the case told us that there were clear signs of mutilation and damage. It appeared they had a run a vehicle over his body after having shot him,” he said, sharing photographic evidence.

The complaint to the ICC included similar details extracted from independent medical reports. “After his killing, his body was mutilated, including being run over by a heavy vehicle in public. His body revealed marks of brutal torture and 12 bullet entry and exit points. These were received after his capture, as his bulletproof jacket has no bullet marks,” the complaint stated.

Another tribal elder from Kandahar who is familiar with the case, and who also wished to be anonymous, added that the Taliban’s irreverence towards the dead was not uncommon.

The grievous nature of the murder of a journalist – who are supposed to be protected by international laws even in war zones – has prompted the family to seek justice from the international courts, Singh said.

“From multiple accounts, it is clear he was tortured and killed because he was a journalist and an Indian. These acts and this killing constitute not only a murder but also a crime against humanity and a war crime,” the lawyer said, explaining that the family’s complaint seeks to bring the probe into Siddiqui’s murder under a wider investigation of Taliban war crimes recently resumed by the ICC prosecutor.

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