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The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has requested permission to investigate US military personnel and members of the CIA over allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, a decision likely to anger the US administration.
As well as naming the US armed forces and intelligence agency, Fatou Bensouda also asked for authorisation from the ICC’s judiciary to investigate alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Taliban and the Haqqani network, and war crimes by the Afghan national security forces.
Ms Bensouda said on Monday that the proposed investigation would focus on alleged crimes committed on the territory of Afghanistan as of May 2003, as well as at secret detention facilities in other countries since July 2002.
The September 11 attacks, which led to the invasions of Afghanistan and then Iraq, also led the CIA to use secret prisons, known as “black sites”, to interrogate and torture terrorist suspects. These were located across the globe, from Thailand to Poland, as well as in Afghanistan itself.
In a statement on the ICC’s website, Ms Bensouda said the prosecutor’s office believed an investigation was required owing to “the gravity of the acts committed … and the absence of relevant national proceedings against those who appear to be most responsible for the most serious crimes within this situation”.
The US has not signed up to the court but its nationals can be charged with crimes committed in countries that are members.
In a preliminary report issued almost exactly a year ago, the ICC prosecutor’s office named the Taliban, the Haqqani network, and Afghan and US security and military personnel as likely to come under investigation. At the time the US state department rejected the need for an ICC probe.
The alleged crimes carried out by US personnel were said to have taken place “principally in the 2003-04 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014”.
Those who consider themselves victims of the alleged crimes have until January 31 2018 to make representations to the ICC’s pre-trial chamber.
Set up in 2002, the ICC is the world’s first permanent court set up to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. More than 120 countries around the world are members, but key powers such as Russia and China, along with the US, have not signed up.