U.S. Won't Be Investigated for Claims of Torture, Mistreatment in Afghanistan, ICC Says

The International Criminal Court will not resume investigations into alleged offenses committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan amid the Taliban's takeover, the ICC's chief prosecutor said, according to the Associated Press.

In a 2016 report, ICC prosecutors said U.S. troops and the CIA may have tortured and mistreated people in detention facilities in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania.

The ICC authorized an investigation last March, but it was delayed after Afghan authorities asked to take over the case. With the new Taliban rule in Afghanistan, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan asked the court to not resume its investigation into the U.S. because "there is no longer the prospect of genuine and effective domestic investigation" in the country, the AP reported.

Instead, Khan said, the ICC will focus on crimes committed by the Taliban and the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS.

"The gravity, scale and continuing nature of alleged crimes by the Taliban and the Islamic State," including attacks on civilians, executions and the persecution of women and girls, "demand focus and proper resources from my office," Khan said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Taliban Rule Afghanistan
The International Criminal Court will not resume its investigation into reports of torture and mistreatment by U.S. forces in Afghanistan amid Taliban rule, the ICC's chief prosecutor said. Above, Taliban fighters patrol along a road in Kabul on Sunday. Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images

Khan made specific mention of the August 26 attacks near Kabul's airport during the chaotic evacuations following the Taliban's takeover. The attacks killed dozens of Afghans and 13 U.S. troops.

On his decision to no longer prioritize other aspects of the probe, including allegations of crimes by Americans, Khan said his office "will remain alive to its evidence preservation responsibilities, to the extent they arise, and promote accountability efforts within the framework of the principle of complementarity."

The ICC is a court of last resort, set up in 2002 to prosecute alleged atrocities in countries that cannot or will not bring perpetrators to justice—known as the principle of complementarity.

The ICC decision to investigate the U.S. last year by Khan's predecessor, Fatou Bensouda, led to the Trump administration slapping sanctions on Bensouda, who left office over the summer at the end of her nine-year term.

The investigation originally took aim at allegations of crimes by forces of the then-Afghan government.

Patricia Gossman, the associate director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, told the AP it was a "really disturbing statement by the prosecutor to say the investigation will only prioritize some of the parties to the conflict—and in particular seemingly to ignore entirely the very serious allegations against U.S. forces and CIA."

She said that "impunity for those crimes and others committed by the former Afghan government is one reason why we are where we are today in Afghanistan."

Announcing the decision last year to impose sanctions on Bensouda and one of her top aides for investigating the United States and its allies, then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said of the court, "We will not tolerate its illegitimate attempts to subject Americans to its jurisdiction."

Khan had already put Afghanistan on notice that he was closely monitoring the country in the aftermath of the Taliban's seizure of power. He said Monday that "I remain committed to deploying the appropriate and available resources at my disposal to ensure independent and impartial investigations. Victims and survivors in Afghanistan deserve no less."

ICC Karim Khan
Karim Ahmed Khan, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, speaks during an August 12 news conference at the Ministry of Justice in the Khartoum, Sudan. Marwan Ali/AP Photo