American military forces and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are believed to be responsible for the torture of dozens of detainees in connection with the war in Afghanistan, the International Criminal Court said on Monday.
The United States is not a member state of the international tribunal that is based in the Netherlands, but American citizens can still face prosecution if they commit war crimes in the court’s member states, which includes Afghanistan.
In an annual report, the court said that its preliminary examination into the conflict in Afghanistan found a “reasonable basis” to believe that American forces in Afghanistan had committed war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment. Those alleged war crimes extended to secret detention facilities in Europe.
“The information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that, in the course of interrogating detainees, and in conduct supporting those interrogations, members of the US armed forces and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape,” the court said.
The report said that at least 61 detainees are believed to have been tortured by American forces and at least 27 additional detainees are alleged to have been tortured by the CIA. This includes alleged abuses at secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, Romania and Lithuania – all member states of the court.
“These alleged 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 ICC said in its report.
The court added that it believes that U.S. authorities ultimately ended the torture of detainees, which is why the majority of the alleged abuses happened in 2003 and 2004 when George W. Bush was commander-in-chief. However, some of the alleged ill-treatment continued until 2014, well into the presidency of Barack Obama.
The CIA is known to have used waterboarding and other torture techniques under President Bush in attempts to extract information from terrorism suspects, but subsequent reports indicated that the torture of detainees – who were not convicted of a crime – did not yield useful intelligence.
Obama is believed to have ended all or at least most of the practices, but Monday’s news comes just a week after the election of Donald Trump, who has vowed to bring back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse”, remarking once that suspects “deserve it” even if it doesn’t work.
The International Criminal Court has also blamed the Taliban and their affiliated Haqqani Network of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and Afghan forces as well are suspected of having carried out torture and other ill-treatment.
The international tribunal said in Monday’s report that it is concluding its preliminary examination into the Afghan conflict and will “imminently” decide whether to launch a full-scale investigation.
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