ICC to investigate US war crimes in Afghanistan

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made a formal request (PDF) on Nov. 20 to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the US military and the CIA. The proposed investigation focuses on alleged crimes committed in Afghanistan by the US military in May 2003, in addition to crimes at secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania since July 2002. The allegations are brought under articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute and include murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture and cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence, and using, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of 15 years.

The prosecutor's office said there was reason to believe that at least 54 detainees were abused by US military personnel and at least 24 by CIA operatives.

Describing a CIA detention facility in Poland, the request states, between 2002 to 2003, "at least five victims were allegedly subjected to acts of torture and cruel treatment [and] one Al Qaeda detainee was allegedly waterboarded 183 times within the span of one month."

While this is the first time Fatou Bensouda has targeted Americans for alleged war crimes, the request reasons:

The Prosecution recalls the gravity of the alleged crimes identified and described in this Request. The seriousness and extent of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Afghanistan, highlighted by the extended period of time over which crimes have been and continue to be committed, the wide range of perpetrators among all the parties to the conflict, the recurring patterns of criminality, and the limited prospects for accountability at the national level, all weigh heavily in favor of an investigation.

The request was made to the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber, and if approved, would permit the prosecution to begin an investigation, the sole objective of which must be to "independently, impartially, and objectively investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan."

From Jurist, Nov. 21. Used with permission.

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