The International Criminal Court (ICC) may break its longstanding practice of unfairly targeting African nations by charging the United States and the CIA with war crimes.
The chief prosecutor for the ICC revealed on Monday that the results of a preliminary probe have suggested the U.S. likely committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan.
“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 between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014,” the report stated.
These abuses appeared to be widespread, as the 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 report continued:
“The information available suggests that victims were deliberately subjected to physical and psychological violence, and that crimes were allegedly committed with particular cruelty and in a manner that debased the basic human dignity of the victims.”
Following this assessment, ICC prosecutors have said they will decide “imminently” whether to seek authorization to open a full investigation into the United States’ conduct in Afghanistan that could then lead to war crimes charges. In order to open a full investigation, ICC prosecutors have to establish whether the court has jurisdiction and whether the alleged crimes are already being investigated and prosecuted in the countries involved. Even though the United States is not a member of the ICC, because the crimes were reportedly committed in Afghanistan (a member of the ICC) the American personnel responsible can ultimately face prosecution at the court’s headquarters in the Hague, which is located in the Netherlands.
This development is especially relevant considering that only a month ago, Secretary of State John Kerry was calling for Russia and Syria to face trial for war crimes over the bombardment of Eastern Aleppo.
How the U.S. will be able to maintain its ability to criticize other countries following this announcement remains to be seen.