Did US forces, CIA commit war crimes?
THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS
International Criminal Court prosecutors said Monday that a preliminary probe indicates that members of the U.S. armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan.
The prosecution office said in a report that U.S. armed forces personnel “appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture” in Afghanistan, mainly in 2003-2004.
The report added that CIA operatives may have tortured at least 27 detainees in Afghanistan and elsewhere mainly in the same time period.
Prosecutors said they will decide “imminently” whether to seek authorization to open a full-scale investigation in Afghanistan.
Established in 2002, the International Criminal Court is the world’s first permanent court set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. More than 120 countries around the world are members, but superpowers including the United States, Russia and China have not signed up.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Rome treaty that established the court Dec. 31, 2000, but President George W. Bush renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.
Even though the U.S. is not a member of the court, Americans still could face prosecution at its headquarters in The Hague if they commit crimes within its jurisdiction in a country that is a member, such as Afghanistan, and are not prosecuted at home.
So far, all of the ICC’s trials have dealt with crimes committed in Africa.
Prosecutors say investigations also are reportedly under way in Poland, Romania and Lithuania – all signatories to the Rome treaty – into possible crimes at CIA detention facilities in those countries.
The abuse allegations came in a wide-ranging annual report into the prosecution office’s so-called preliminary examinations, which involve studying reports of possible crimes to establish if they fall under the court’s jurisdiction.
The same report said that Taliban and Afghan government forces also may have used torture and committed other atrocities in that country’s long and bitter conflict.
Referring to the purported U.S. war crimes, the report said they “were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals. Rather, they appear to have been committed as part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees.”