When people hear the term “war crimes,” they assume that a cruel dictator or an extremist terrorist group is involved, but according to the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in the Netherlands, the United States might soon be added to that list. The head prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, is considering a full investigation that could lead to the prosecution of U.S. Forces for war crimes in Afghanistan, including torture, unreasonably cruel treatment, and rape. The war crimes detailed in the report are alleged to have taken place at secret detention centers set up and run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the early stages of the war in 2003-2004. The report cites less than 100 cases, but notes that these were not isolated events. As reported in the New York Times, the document says, “Rather, they appear to have been committed as part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees.”
U.S. forces are not the only group under threat of investigation in this war crimes inquiry. Afghan Government Forces and the Taliban also are implicated in reports of similar war crimes of torture. Additionally, the report claims that the CIA may have similarly mistreated detainees in Poland, Romania and Lithuania between Dec. 2002 and Mar. 2008.
While Bensouda’s report concludes there is a “reasonable basis” for a prosecution to be brought against the troops, U.S. cooperation is extremely unlikely as it is not a member of the court. Additionally, a previous U.S. Justice department investigation into CIA abuse did not result in prosecution, which leads most to conclude that an ICC trial of American soldiers for war crimes is unlikely to go forward.