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LONDON: Human Rights Watch urged the International Criminal Court in The Hague to assess all parties – including former government forces – in Afghanistan for war crimes and crimes against humanity after the Office of the Prosecutor resumed its investigation on Monday .

Patricia Gossman, HRW’s deputy director for Asia, said: “The ICC offers a rare opportunity to advance justice in a country where accountability is utterly absent.

“This investigation must address serious crimes committed by all parties to the conflict, including U.S. forces, to deliver justice even when the most powerful nations are involved.”

The initial ICC investigation, stalled in March 2020 at the request of the Afghan government, had been deadlocked since the Taliban took over the country in August 2021 – with ICC judges set to determine who represented the country.

Karim Khan, the ICC prosecutor, was allowed to return to work on October 31 after judges determined that Afghanistan under the Taliban was not carrying out “genuine” investigations into war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Its investigation covers events that began in 2003, after the fall of the Taliban to the US-led coalition, and includes the activities of the Taliban and their affiliates, Daesh, Afghan National Security Forces and armed forces. belonging to ICC member states stationed in the country. , including the United States, and their activities in relation to Afghanistan abroad – which are in part linked to the practices of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

However, HRW said that in its initial request to resume its investigation in September 2021, Khan “indicated that any investigation would focus on alleged crimes by the Taliban and the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), a (Daesh)-affiliated group, while downplaying the alleged crimes of Afghan security forces and US personnel. »

HRW said it found “numerous” examples of violations of international law committed by Afghan and coalition forces in Afghanistan, including torture and summary executions.

He added that the ICC investigation “concerns all alleged crimes and actors” and urged Khan to “reconsider his decision not to prioritize these lines of inquiry and reaffirm his mandate to tackle the grave abuses committed by all parties to the conflict”.

However, HRW admitted that Taliban and ISKP activities in the region remained a major concern, adding that the former’s takeover of the country had raised serious concerns not only about the need to bring to justice historical cases of violations of human rights, but also of the rights of future generations.

HRW highlighted how the Taliban had carried out “unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and other serious abuses primarily targeting former government security forces, civil servants and journalists, including women” since taking power last year. the latter, as well as “arbitrary detention, torture and… collective punishment”. on their opponents.

The rights of women and girls are of particular concern, he said, following the closure of almost all secondary schools for girls in the country, their withdrawal from many sectors of activity and restrictions imposed on their freedom of movement and expression. Many women and girls, he added, have been beaten, detained and tortured for protesting these limits imposed on them.

The ISKP, meanwhile, is responsible for the deaths of more than 1,500 innocent civilians, mostly from Afghanistan’s Shiite and Hazara communities.

The security situation in Afghanistan, HRW said, has forced thousands to flee the country and will continue to hamper any attempt by the ICC to investigate and seek justice for the victims.

Gossman said, “The ICC’s work in Afghanistan remains vital to bringing justice to victims of terrible crimes, including women and girls, ethnic minorities and LGBT people. Continued impunity in the country’s decades-long conflict will only aggravate the instability, corruption, discrimination and recurrence of violence that the Afghan people have long endured.

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