US forces may have com­mit­ted war crimes in Afghanistan: ICC ICC on a col­li­sion course with Trump

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

US forces may have com­mit­ted war crimes in Afghanistan from 2003-2004 by tor­tur­ing pris­on­ers in what ap­peared to be a de­lib­er­ate pol­icy, the chief pros­e­cu­tor of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court said. Un­veil­ing the re­sults of a lengthy ini­tial probe into atroc­i­ties in Afghanistan, pros­e­cu­tor Fa­tou Ben­souda said she would de­cide “im­mi­nently” whether to ask to launch a full­blown in­ves­ti­ga­tion-and take the world’s only per­ma­nent war crimes court into un­charted ter­ri­tory.

She stressed that the Tale­ban mili­tia and the af­fil­i­ated Haqqani net­work, Afghan govern­ment forces and US troops as well as the CIA all ap­peared to have car­ried out war crimes since the Is­lamic mili­tia was ousted by a US-led in­va­sion in 2001. And she blamed the Tale­ban and its al­lies for the deaths of some 17,000 civil­ians since 2007 to De­cem­ber 2015 in a bru­tal in­sur­gency with “nu­mer­ous at­tacks” on schools, hos­pi­tals and mosques.

But for the first time, Ben­souda high­lighted al­le­ga­tions of “war crimes of tor­ture and re­lated ill-treat­ment, by US mil­i­tary forces de­ployed to Afghanistan and in se­cret de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties op­er­ated by the Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency”. There was a “rea­son­able ba­sis to be­lieve that” dur­ing the in­ter­ro­ga­tion of de­tainees, “mem­bers of the US armed forces and the US Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Agency re­sorted to tech­niques amount­ing to the com­mis­sion of the war crimes of tor­ture” as well as cruel treat­ment and rape.

Com­plex in­ves­ti­ga­tion

If Ben­souda does ask judges to au­tho­rize a fullscale in­quiry, the tri­bunal would be tak­ing on its most com­plex and po­lit­i­cally con­tro­ver­sial in­ves­ti­ga­tions to date. But the United States has not rat­i­fied the court’s found­ing Rome Statute, and it is un­likely Wash­ing­ton would co­op­er­ate in any in­ves­ti­ga­tion which would ex­pose US forces for the first time to the glare of an ICC probe. And while the US has been lead­ing calls for those be­hind atroc­i­ties in the Syr­ian con­flict to be brought to jus­tice in The Hague, there is lit­tle chance of any US sol­diers end­ing up in the dock here.

The for­mer ad­min­is­tra­tion of pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush au­tho­rized the use of so-called en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques-in­clud­ing wa­ter­board­ing-af­ter the Septem­ber 11, 2001 at­tacks on the United States. Their use was abol­ished by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama when he took over the White House in Jan­uary 2009. But the ICC could be set for a col­li­sion course with pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, who has said he is in fa­vor of such harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques and may re-au­tho­rize their use. War crimes al­legedly car­ried out by US forces were “not the abuses of a few iso­lated in­di­vid­u­als,” Ben­souda in­sisted in her an­nual re­port to the 124 states that be­long to the ICC.

Rather it ap­peared “th­ese al­leged crimes were com­mit­ted” as part of “a pol­icy or poli­cies aimed at elic­it­ing in­for­ma­tion through the use of in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques in­volv­ing cruel or vi­o­lent meth­ods”. The aim was to “sup­port US ob­jec­tives in the con­flict in Afghanistan”. De­tail­ing her of­fice’s ini­tial find­ings, Ben­souda said “at least 61 de­tainees” were sub­jected to “tor­ture (and) cruel treat­ment” by US armed forces in Afghanistan be­tween May 1, 2003 and De­cem­ber 31, 2014. “Mem­bers of the CIA” also ap­peared “to have sub­jected at least 27 de­tained per­sons to tor­ture, cruel treat­ment... and/or rape on the ter­ri­tory of Afghanistan” as well as in se­cret de­ten­tion cen­ters in Poland, Ro­ma­nia and Lithua­nia be­tween De­cem­ber 2002 and March 2008.

Moving out of Africa

Any prose­cu­tions of Afghan forces could also be com­pli­cated by a gen­eral amnesty law passed by the Afghan par­lia­ment which came into force in 2009. The ICC was set up in The Hague in 2002 to try the world’s worst crimes in cases where na­tional courts are un­will­ing or un­able to act. The re­port was re­leased just ahead of Wed­nes­day’s open­ing of the an­nual con­fer­ence of the tri­bunal’s state par­ties, set this year to be dom­i­nated by the shock de­fec­tions of three African na­tions, with Ben­souda un­der pres­sure to widen the geo­graphic scope of her in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Kabul rec­og­nized the court’s ju­ris­dic­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2003, au­tho­riz­ing Ben­souda’s pre­de­ces­sor Louis MorenoO­campo to probe atroc­i­ties on its ter­ri­tory.

— AP

Photo shows the ex­te­rior view of the head­quar­ters of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court in The Hague, Nether­lands.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.