International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court based in The Hague says she will open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

The investigation will look into reports that detainees were tortured while in U.S. custody.  The prosecutor also says she will look into war crimes committed by the Taliban and the Afghanistan government.

Associated Press:

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that a preliminary examination found "a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity" were committed in Afghanistan after U.S.-led troops moved in following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Once the prosecutor submits her investigation request to the court, which is based in the Dutch city of The Hague, it's then up to the tribunal's judges to decide whether to open one. Bensouda's office said her request will be filed publicly "in the days to come."

An Afghanistan probe would be exceptional because up until now all ICC trials have dealt with alleged crimes in Africa. The only case currently under investigation outside Africa is in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement as a step toward ending impunity for crimes in Afghanistan.

"Thousands and thousands of Afghans have suffered horrendous human rights abuses and war crimes over the years and there has been no accountability," Richard Dicker of the group's international justice program told The Associated Press. "The announcement today by the prosecutor opens the door to the possibility that for the first time there may be some justice possible for the victims."

Bensouda said in a report last year that U.S. forces and CIA agents may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014. That opens the possibility that Americans could be among those investigated for possible prosecution, even though the U.S. is not among the court's more than 120 members.

Taliban and Afghan government forces also may have used torture and committed other atrocities in Afghanistan's long and bitter conflict, the report said.

Bensouda said in a statement Friday that if judges approve an investigation, her office "will investigate, within its mandate and means, in an independent, impartial and objective way, crimes within the Court's jurisdiction allegedly committed by any party to the armed conflict."

Americans could face prosecution if their alleged crimes took place in a country that is an International Criminal Court member, such as Afghanistan, and if they were not prosecuted at home.

However, legal experts say the chances of American service members being charged and sent to face justice at the ICC are remote.

The U.S. is not a signatory to the agreement under which the ICC operates, meaning that it is extremely unlikely that an American judge will simply hand over Americans to be tried. 

Since the Taliban commits war crimes just about every day in its efforts to intimidate the Afghan population into submission, it's hard to believe that any "investigation" by the ICC prosecutor would even come remotely close to getting at the truth. 

As for American soldiers in Afghanistan, they operate under independent rules of engagement that may or may not conflict with what the ICC considers acceptable.  Soldiers who have violated those rules have already been disciplined.  It seems redundant to hand them over to the tender mercies of an international court.

Could a U.S. service member receive what we would consider a "fair trial" from the ICC?  Hopefully, we won't have to answer that question.

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court based in The Hague says she will open an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

The investigation will look into reports that detainees were tortured while in U.S. custody.  The prosecutor also says she will look into war crimes committed by the Taliban and the Afghanistan government.

Associated Press:

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that a preliminary examination found "a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity" were committed in Afghanistan after U.S.-led troops moved in following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Once the prosecutor submits her investigation request to the court, which is based in the Dutch city of The Hague, it's then up to the tribunal's judges to decide whether to open one. Bensouda's office said her request will be filed publicly "in the days to come."

An Afghanistan probe would be exceptional because up until now all ICC trials have dealt with alleged crimes in Africa. The only case currently under investigation outside Africa is in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the announcement as a step toward ending impunity for crimes in Afghanistan.

"Thousands and thousands of Afghans have suffered horrendous human rights abuses and war crimes over the years and there has been no accountability," Richard Dicker of the group's international justice program told The Associated Press. "The announcement today by the prosecutor opens the door to the possibility that for the first time there may be some justice possible for the victims."

Bensouda said in a report last year that U.S. forces and CIA agents may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014. That opens the possibility that Americans could be among those investigated for possible prosecution, even though the U.S. is not among the court's more than 120 members.

Taliban and Afghan government forces also may have used torture and committed other atrocities in Afghanistan's long and bitter conflict, the report said.

Bensouda said in a statement Friday that if judges approve an investigation, her office "will investigate, within its mandate and means, in an independent, impartial and objective way, crimes within the Court's jurisdiction allegedly committed by any party to the armed conflict."

Americans could face prosecution if their alleged crimes took place in a country that is an International Criminal Court member, such as Afghanistan, and if they were not prosecuted at home.

However, legal experts say the chances of American service members being charged and sent to face justice at the ICC are remote.

The U.S. is not a signatory to the agreement under which the ICC operates, meaning that it is extremely unlikely that an American judge will simply hand over Americans to be tried. 

Since the Taliban commits war crimes just about every day in its efforts to intimidate the Afghan population into submission, it's hard to believe that any "investigation" by the ICC prosecutor would even come remotely close to getting at the truth. 

As for American soldiers in Afghanistan, they operate under independent rules of engagement that may or may not conflict with what the ICC considers acceptable.  Soldiers who have violated those rules have already been disciplined.  It seems redundant to hand them over to the tender mercies of an international court.

Could a U.S. service member receive what we would consider a "fair trial" from the ICC?  Hopefully, we won't have to answer that question.

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