Hague Prosecutor Seeks to Pursue Afghan Case That Could Ensnare Americans

The International Criminal Court prosecutor stated Friday that she would request permission to open an Afghanistan investigation, a step that will result in the court docket’s first indictments of Americans for struggle crimes.

The prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has been ambading info on the struggle in Afghanistan for years. She has prompt earlier than that she has proof for a prosecution — not solely of alleged atrocities dedicated by combatants in Afghanistan, together with each the Taliban and the United States navy, however of badociated crimes in different international locations the place C.I.A. operatives have held and maybe tortured Afghan prisoners.

Ms. Bensouda stated she would ask the court docket’s judges for authorization to pursue a proper investigation. If the judges agree, the Afghanistan investigation and any ensuing indictments may pose a authorized check for the United States — which doesn’t acknowledge the court docket’s jurisdiction — to cooperate with it, particularly if any defendants are American.

“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,” Ms. Bensouda stated in a badertion.

Should the judges grant her request, she stated, her workplace will conduct an unbiased and neutral investigation into accusations of atrocities “committed by any party to the armed conflict.”

It is unclear exactly when, and even whether or not, the judges will grant her request. Nor has Ms. Bensouda disclosed precisely what supporting materials she’s going to current to them.

But legal professionals and worldwide justice consultants who’ve adopted the court docket expressed little doubt that Ms. Bensouda has proof that might implicate Americans.

They famous that in a report by Ms. Bensouda final November summarizing her preliminary examination of attainable crimes badociated to the Afghanistan battle, she stated members of the United States armed forces “appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity” within the nation between May 2003 and December of 2014.

The report additionally stated members of the C.I.A. “appear to have subjected at least 27 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape,” not solely in Afghanistan however at websites in Poland, Romania and Lithuania, between December 2002 and March 2008.

The court docket, based mostly in The Hague, was created in 2002 for victims of struggle crimes, crimes towards humanity and genocide, notably in international locations that lack the means or willingness to prosecute these crimes.

It has targeted nearly solely on circumstances in African international locations, which has generated a substantial backlash in Africa.

The United States shouldn’t be among the many 124 international locations which can be events to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court docket and that offers it jurisdiction in these international locations. Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania are all states events.

Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, stated that if Ms. Bensouda is profitable, “it will be the first time that, potentially, U.S. citizens could be subject to the reach of this court.”

Nicholas Kaufman, a former prosecutor on the court docket who’s now a lawyer representing a few of its defendants, stated Ms. Bensouda additionally may doubtlessly break new floor by pursuing the circumstances of torture dedicated outdoors of Afghanistan.

“It’s probably the most interesting aspect of today’s announcement, because it will be the first time the United States is under the microscope,” he stated. “This is probably going to raise the hackles of your president.”

Marlise Simons contributed reporting.


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