ICC prosecutor allowed to resume probe of Afghanistan atrocities

  • World
  • Monday, 31 Oct 2022

FILE PHOTO: Public Prosecutor Karim Khan prepares for the trial of Mahamat Said Abdel Kani at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. Peter Dejong/Pool via REUTERS

THE HAGUE (Reuters) -Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday ruled that prosecutor Karim Khan can resume his investigations into atrocities in Afghanistan, a probe that had been put on hold for more than two years.

According to the ruling, published by the ICC, the judges said the investigation could move forward as Kabul "is not presently carrying out genuine investigations" into the alleged crimes under the ICC's jurisdiction, as it had earlier insisted.

In August, a year into Taliban rule, prosecutor Khan had urged judges to allow the probe to move forward and warned that crimes were continuing in Afghanistan.

In September last year, Khan announced he wanted to resume the probe into crimes by the Taliban and the ISIS-K militant group. He said prosecutors would "deprioritise" looking into suspected crimes by U.S. forces and Afghan government troops.

The judges, however, stressed that "the present authorisation relates to all alleged crimes and actors that were subject" to the prosecution's 2017 request to open a probe.

That request names the Taliban, Afghan government forces and United States forces as possible groups involved in alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity but does not mention ISIS-K.

The office of the prosecutor of the ICC was not immediately available for comment.

Afghanistan is one of the longest-running probes by ICC prosecutors and has been beset by legal and practical delays. The initial preliminary examination started in 2007 and it is only with this latest decision that a full-scale investigation can move forward.

It is unlikely that the Taliban will cooperate with any ICC investigation. In their ruling, the judges said they had repeatedly requested addition information from Kabul but all requests went unanswered.

The withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Afghanistan, completed a minute before midnight on Aug. 30, 2021, came as the Taliban swept to power after a 20-year insurgency with a speed and ease that took the world by surprise.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and his government collapsed.

In July, the UN mission in Afghanistan said that the Taliban were responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and inhumane punishments in the months since they toppled the previous government and seized power.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Editing by William Maclean, Angus MacSwan and Nick Macfie)

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