(ANTIMEDIA) The Hague, Netherlands — A prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) is pursuing a war crimes investigation against the United States for its conduct in Afghanistan following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said last year that the U.S. military and CIA could be guilty of war crimes for its torture of detainees in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014. The Guardian reported that “Bensouda’s report last year said the alleged US war 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.” Now, she is seeking approval from the court to move forward. According to the Guardian:
“Her request comes after an unusually long preliminary process, which has dragged on for 10 years because of a lack of capacity at the court as well as lobbying from the Afghan government, which tried to block it. The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, met with Bensouda as late as September during the UN general assembly.”
Bensouda also highlighted potential war crimes by the Taliban and the Afghan government, noting that overall, “10,000 civilians were said to have been killed from 2007 to 2011 alone,” the Independent noted. The Afghan government has resisted investigations, as has the U.S. Last year a State Department official said it was “unwarranted” and “unjustified.”
Nevertheless, Bensouda intends to investigate “crimes against humanity and war crimes such as murder, imprisonment, targeting humanitarian workers, use of child soldiers and carrying out executions without sentencing from the formal legal system,” the Guardian summarized.
Until 2016, the ICC had only investigated crimes in Africa, drawing criticism that it harbored a pro-western bias. It has since launched investigations in other parts of the world, including Iraq, Cambodia, Greece, Colombia, and Ukraine.
The United States is not a member of the court; during George Bush’s presidency, he declined to participate, claiming the U.S. could be unfairly attacked for political reasons. Though the U.S. is not a member, its officials could still be liable if found guilty because the crimes were committed in Afghanistan, which is a member.
The Guardian reported:
“The next step is for a pre-trial chamber of judges to consider the prosecutor’s request, which human rights observers in Kabul believe they will.”
Human Rights Watch said:
“Having documented egregious crimes in Afghanistan that have gone unpunished over many years, we hope this step will open a path to justice for countless victims there.”
Given the court’s previous aversion to prosecuting the U.S. for war crimes, it remains unlikely there will be any convictions. The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, launched as an alternative to the Hague-based ICC, previously found George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of “crimes against peace” during the Iraq War, but both men walk free.
The U.S. has long been accused of war crimes, including potential crimes in drone warfare, as well as during the Vietnam War.
Katherine Gallagher, a senior lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York, was pleased with the ICC’s move to potentially hold U.S. nationals accountable, especially in light of President Trump’s decision to increase troop levels (similar to the Obama administration).
“This long overdue message that no one is above the law is particularly important now, as the Trump administration ramps up military machinations in Afghanistan and embraces the endless war with no plan in sight,” she said.
According to Bensouda:
“For decades, the people of Afghanistan have endured the scourge of armed conflict. Following a meticulous preliminary examination of the situation, I have come to the conclusion that all legal criteria required under the [ICC’s] Rome statute to commence an investigation have been met.”
She also said:
“In accordance with the office’s policy and practice, the ultimate focus will be upon those most responsible for the most serious crimes allegedly committed in connection with the situation in Afghanistan.”