Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have announced that a potential probe into alleged war crimes committed in Afghanistan since 2003 has been delayed as new information is relayed from Kabul.
The office of ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in an email on Wednesday that a large amount of new information from the government of Afghanistan had been received, prompting Bensouda to delay a formal investigation of potential war crimes committed in the country, including those by US military personnel.
The ICC prosecutors called the information "substantial,” which could influence Bensouda’s decision to launch a probe. Bensouda had said in November that the investigation was "imminent." The ICC had even carried out a preliminary examination, finding “potential cases” among three groups of alleged perpetrators, namely the Taliban and allied militants, the Afghan forces, and US military and the CIA. Washington, a non-member at the ICC, has already been at odds with the court over an array of issues. There are concerns that the United States is trying to escape a probe by Bensouda as it could seriously hurt its image.
Washington and allies in NATO invaded Afghanistan in 2001 on the pretext of war on terror and ousting the Taliban from power. The costly military adventure dragged on for 15 years and left Afghanistan with many problems, including a surge in militancy and destruction in various cities and towns.
Experts said the delay announcement was a step down by Bensouda, a respected judge who is known for his carefully measured and deliberate decisions.
Prosecutors said in the Wednesday email that the information sent from Kabul also included local prosecutions of alleged crimes. They said those cases would be reviewed by the court before the investigation could be opened.
"When this review is completed, the prosecutor will make a final decision on whether to request the pre-trial chamber authorization to commence an investigation," the prosecutor’s office said, without providing a timetable.