Prosecutors for the International Criminal Court (ICC) will ask permission to look into possible war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a statement Friday saying that she’ll request a full investigation into U.S. troops and the CIA, as she believes a preliminary investigation into torture and cruel treatment has turned up solid enough evidence to move forward.
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The request is by far the most politically tendentious request to date by the ICC, an independent tribunal, but it is one that will have limited actual effect, given that the United States has not ratified the ICC’s Rome Statute. Afghanistan, however, recognized the court’s authority in 2003.
“In due course, I will file my request for judicial authorization to open an investigation, submitting that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan,” Bensouda said in a statement, according to AFP.
“Following a meticulous preliminary examination … I have come to the conclusion that all legal criteria to commence an investigation has been met,” Bensouda added.
Once Bensouda files the request, the decision to grant the investigation will be left up to the judges.
Bensouda’s has previously alleged that the Taliban, Afghan government forces, U.S. troops and the CIA have all committed what constitute war crimes in Afghanistan. Her report in 2016 stated, among other things, that U.S. troops were involved in subjecting “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.”
The Pentagon issued a statement in response, condemning the expected investigation request.
“Our view is clear: An ICC investigation with respect to U.S. personnel would be wholly unwarranted and unjustified,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told NPR. “More broadly, our overall assessment is that commencement of an ICC investigation will not serve the interests of either peace or justice in Afghanistan.”
Pahon added that the U.S. supports the Taliban being held accountable for crimes