US forces may have used tor­ture in Afghanistan: ICC

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News/worldwide -

UNITED STATES armed forces and the CIA may have com­mit­ted war crimes by tor­tur­ing de­tainees in Afghanistan, the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC) has said in a re­port.

“Mem­bers of US armed forces ap­pear to have sub­jected at least 61 de­tained per­sons to tor­ture, cruel treat­ment, out­rages upon per­sonal dig­nity on the ter­ri­tory of Afghanistan be­tween 1 May 2003 and 31 De­cem­ber 2014,” says the re­port is­sued on Mon­day by Prose­cu­tor Fa­tou Ben­souda.

The re­port added that CIA op­er­a­tives may have sub­jected at least 27 de­tainees in Afghanistan, Poland, Ro­ma­nia and Lithua­nia to “tor­ture, cruel treat­ment, out­rages upon per­sonal dig­nity and/or rape” be­tween De­cem­ber 2002 and March 2008.

Most of the al­leged abuse hap­pened in 2003-2004, and was al­legedly part of “ap­proved in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques in an at­tempt to ex­tract ‘ac­tion­able in­tel­li­gence’ from de­tainees”.

Pros­e­cu­tors said they would de­cide “im­mi­nently” whether to seek au­tho­ri­sa­tion to open a full-scale in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Afghanistan that could lead to war crimes charges.

State De­part­ment spokes­woman El­iz­a­beth Trudeau said the US does not be­lieve an ICC in­ves­ti­ga­tion is “war­ranted or ap­pro­pri­ate”.

“The United States is deeply com­mit­ted to com­ply­ing with the law of war, and we have a ro­bust na­tional sys­tem of in­ves­ti­ga­tion and ac­count­abil­ity that more than meets in­ter­na­tional stan­dards,” Trudeau said.

A Pen­tagon spokesman, Navy Cap­tain Jeff Davis, said of­fi­cials were await­ing more de­tails about the ICC find­ings be­fore com­ment­ing.

If an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the US army and the CIA goes ahead, it would be a very sig­nif­i­cant move by the ICC, ac­cord­ing to David Bosco, who wrote a book about the ICC’s role and func­tion in global pol­i­tics.

“This would be the first time that the ICC has set its sights on US per­son­nel and it does look like they are go­ing to be fo­cus­ing on the ac­tiv­i­ties of the CIA in Afghanistan in 2003, 2004, which makes it a se­ri­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tion of CIA in­ter­ro­ga­tion prac­tices in the wake of 9/11,” he said.

“The prose­cu­tor in this lat­est re­port also sig­nals that she does not have con­fi­dence that the na­tional ju­di­cial sys­tems are go­ing to do their job and there­fore she wants to move for­ward with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Es­tab­lished in 2002, the ICC 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 US, Rus­sia and China have not signed up.

For­mer US Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton signed the Rome treaty that es­tab­lished the court on De­cem­ber 31, 2000, but Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush re­nounced the sig­na­ture, cit­ing fears that Amer­i­cans would be un­fairly pros­e­cuted for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons.

Even though the US is not a mem­ber of the court, Amer­i­cans could still face pros­e­cu­tion at the ICC 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.

Be­fore de­cid­ing to open a full-scale in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ICC pros­e­cu­tors have to estab­lish whether they have ju­ris­dic­tion and whether the al­leged crimes are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated and pros­e­cuted in the coun­tries in­volved.

The ICC is a court of last re­sort that takes on cases only when other coun­tries are un­able or un­will­ing to pros­e­cute.

Af­ter the Septem­ber 11, 2001 at­tacks, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion al­lowed the use of wa­ter­board­ing, which sim­u­lates drown­ing, and other so-called “en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques” against sus­pected “ter­ror­ists”.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama banned such prac­tices af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2009.

Dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump sug­gested that as pres­i­dent he would push to change laws that pro­hibit wa­ter­board­ing and other harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques, ar­gu­ing that ban­ning them puts the US at a strate­gic dis­ad­van­tage. — Al Jazeera

Res­i­dents queue for blan­kets and food dis­trib­uted by Nige­rien sol­diers in Da­masak in this file photo — Reuters

El­iz­a­beth Trudeau

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