Rights groups have criticized Karim Khan’s decision not to investigate U.S. forces and the CIA for war crimes.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor has defended the omission of the United States from an investigation in Afghanistan, saying the “worst crimes” were committed by the Taliban and ISIL (ISIS).
Rights groups criticized Karim Khan’s decision in September to “downgrade” the investigation of US forces and instead focus on Afghanistan’s new rulers and the rival Islamic State in Khorasan province, ISKP (ISIS-K), an ISIL-affiliated company.
“I made a decision, based on the evidence, that the worst crimes in terms of seriousness and extent and extent appear to have been committed by the so-called Islamic State. [in] Khorasan and also the Taliban, ”Khan said at a meeting of ICC countries in The Hague on Monday.
“And I said I would prioritize these and I have asked the judges for permission to carry out these investigations,” the British prosecutor added.
The ICC’s Afghan investigation into US crimes had long angered Washington and prompted then-President Donald Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on Khan’s predecessor Fatou Bensouda.
The world’s only permanent war crimes tribunal launched a preliminary investigation into Afghanistan in 2006, and Bensouda asked the judges to approve a full investigation in 2017.
Bensouda said there was “reasonable” suspicion of war crimes by the Taliban and US forces in Afghanistan and the CIA in secret detention centers abroad.
The now deposed government in Kabul then asked the court in early 2020 to suspend its investigation while investigating war crimes at home.
However, in September, Khan asked the judges to restart the process, saying that the Taliban’s takeover in August meant that war crimes would no longer be properly investigated.
Judges have asked for more clarity on who is officially in charge in Afghanistan before making a decision.
The British prosecutor, meanwhile, said that while the recent coup in Sudan had “caused a bit of a break”, he expected his team to be able to return soon to continue the investigation of war crimes there.
Khan visited Khartoum in August to sign a co-operation agreement to enforce a “genocide” trial of ex-leader Omar al-Bashir over the Darfur conflict.
He added that “the time for change is ripe” in the ICC in general, and reiterated previous promises to focus on cases with a probable chance of conviction and drop them where successful prosecution is unlikely.