Barely a month after Gambia described ICC as “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans”, its prosecutor Fatou Bensouda suggested she may open an investigation into the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.
A Gambian-born lawyer who is the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has suggested she may open an investigation into the US invasion of Afghanistan where war crimes might have been committed by the country’s forces.
The U.S. is not a signatory to the war crimes court but an investigation would expose its forces to ICC scrutiny for the first time.
Delivering her annual report to members of the ICC in The Hague on Monday, chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she would decide “imminently” whether to ask judges for permission to launch a full-blown investigation as to whether US military forces and CIA operatives may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan through the “cruel or violent” interrogation of detainees.
Bensouda said the Taliban, Afghan government forces and U.S. troops as well as the CIA all appeared to have carried out war crimes. “At least 61 detainees” were subjected to “torture (and) cruel treatment” by US armed forces in Afghanistan between May 1, 2003, and December 31, 2014, according to ICC initial findings.
Since the establishment of the ICC, the war crimes court has been accused of only targeting African leaders.
Last month, Gambia has become the third country after South Africa and Burundi to leave the ICC. The West African nation notified the UN on Monday that its withdrawal would take effect from November next year.
Like many African leaders who are suspicious of the motives of the court, Gambia’s Information Minister Sheriff Bojang described the ICC as “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.”
Meanwhile, the ICC the judge said there had been allegations of “war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment, by U.S. military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.”
The alleged crimes were “not the abuses of a few isolated individuals” but were committed as part of “a policy or policies aimed at eliciting information through the use of interrogation techniques involving cruel or violent methods” the ICC reported, suggesting aim was to “support U.S. objectives in the conflict in Afghanistan.”
Bensouda said there was a “reasonable basis to believe that” during the interrogation of detainees “members of the US armed forces and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency resorted to techniques amounting to the commission of the war crimes of torture” as well as cruel treatment and rape.
The U.S. has not ratified the ICC’s founding Rome Statute while Afghanistan recognized the court’s jurisdiction in February 2003 and gave the ICC authority to investigate atrocities on its territory.
U.S. citizens could face prosecution if they are found to have committed crimes in a country that is an ICC member, such as Afghanistan.
The ICC’s Bensouda is Gambian and was an adviser to Gambian President Yahya Jammeh after he seized power in a coup in 1994. She later served as justice minister.
Last week Bensouda thanked retiring UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his “firm and principled support” of the ICC and the international rule of law.
Ban Ki-moon has expressed regret that South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia were leaving the ICC. He said it could “send a wrong message on these countries’ commitment to justice.”