Under heavy pressure from Washington, the International Criminal Court’s new head prosecutor, Karim Khan, has suspended an investigation into US war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. The British citizen, who was sworn in last week, stated on Monday that he will “deprioritize” investigations after the Taliban retook control of the country following the withdrawal of US troops.
“Recent developments in Afghanistan, as well as the change in national authorities, represent a significant change in circumstances,” he stated in a statement. “After careful consideration, I have concluded that genuine and effective domestic investigations are no longer possible at this time.” “As a result, I have decided to focus my office’s investigations in Afghanistan on alleged crimes committed by the Taliban and the Daesh-K [Islamic State] and to deprioritize other aspects of this investigation,” he added.
The prosecutor said he met with judges last week to discuss resuming the investigation, and he blamed the international court’s “limited resources” for restricting its focus. In 2017, his predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, urged a judge to enable a full-fledged inquiry into not just the Taliban and Afghan government forces, but also US troops and the CIA.
Her request was accepted in March 2020, and preparations are underway to begin examining war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan over a 20-year period. Her decision, however, infuriated Washington, which revoked her visa and imposed greater limitations on the actions of ICC members, impeding their capacity to carry out their duties efficiently.
Mr. Khan stated that there was a need to “construct credible cases capable of being proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court.” Because of the enormity of the murders perpetrated by the Taliban and Isis, he insisted on shifting the focus. He specifically mentioned the August 26 suicide bombing at Kabul airport, which killed at least 170 people, including 13 US military members.
He did not, however, mention the retaliatory drone attack ordered by US President Joe Biden, which killed an Afghan charity worker’s whole family, including six children. The United States voted against the Rome Statute, which formed the International Criminal Court in 1998, and is not a member of the global body. Washington has historically rejected the establishment of an international court that might hold US military and political officials accountable to a single global standard of justice.