The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said Monday he was seeking approval to resume his investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Karim A.A. Khan had originally been authorized by the ICC to investigate “alleged atrocity crimes” in March. However, the government of Afghanistan at that time had asked his office to defer the investigation to them.
The ICC prosecutor’s office did defer the investigation, as required by the Rome Statute, but continued to work closely with Afghan authorities with a view of “sharing the burden of the investigation.” Khan praised the former government’s “constructive engagement” with his office prior to August 15, the date on which the Taliban seized control of Kabul.
The change of government led to the prosecutor’s office reconsidering the deferral. “After reviewing matters carefully,” Khan said, “I have reached the conclusion that, at this time, there is no longer the prospect of genuine and effective domestic investigations into Article 5 crimes within Afghanistan.” Because of this, he has reapplied to the ICC to investigate crimes in Afghanistan. Because of the limited resources of his office, the focus of investigations will be on crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban and by the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-K).
The crimes alleged include attacks on civilian populations, extrajudicial killings, persecution of women and girls, and crimes against children. The crimes of IS-K were prioritized along with crimes by the Taliban in light of the bombing attack near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on August 26. The attack killed over 170 people, including Afghan civilians and US soldiers. Islamic State – Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack shortly thereafter.
Khan concluded his statement by reminding those who have carried out atrocities that “there is no statute of limitations for war crimes or crimes against humanity.”