The lead prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has released a statement claiming that her office has "reasonable basis to believe" that US forces stationed in Afghanistan committed war crimes. Fatou Bensouda said that the ICC is now considering launching a full-fledged investigation into the matter.
In a report released on 14 November, prosecutors said that they had substantial reasons to believe that members of the US military tortured prisoners in Afghanistan and at Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) detention facilities elsewhere. Most of the alleged abuse occurred in 2003-04.
"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," the report stated adding that "members of the CIA appear to have subjected at least 27 detained persons" to similar treatment. It also mentioned similar abuse at CIA facilities in Poland, Lithuania and Romania.
"These alleged crimes 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," the ICC prosecutors opined.
Based on these allegations, Bensouda said that The Hague would decide whether to pursue a full investigation, but admitted that an approval from the judges was awaited. While the US is not party to the ICC, Afghanistan, Poland, Lithuania and Romania are members of the court and could pressure it into taking action to prove that it is unbiased towards Washington.
The US has opposed the ICC since its creation in 2003 and is not expected to co-operate in case investigations into the war crimes are approved.