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International Court: US Might Have Committed War Crimes

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The International Criminal Court in the Hague said in a report that the CIA and the U.S. Army might have violated international law, and that prosecutors would decide "imminently" whether to investigate.

The 74-page "Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2016" claims that "members [of] the US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan."

Further, the report alleges that 27 detainees were subjected to "war crimes of torture and related ill-treatment," including rape, "in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period," some of which "have been committed on the territories of Poland, Lithuania and Romania."

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told The Guardian that the U.S. government doesn't think an investigation is "warranted or appropriate."

"The United States is deeply committed to complying with the law of war," Trudeau said, "and we have a robust national system of investigation and accountability that more than meets international standards."

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said that military and intelligence officials are waiting until the ICC released more details before they comment.

The report states that the allegations "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."

These "approved interrogation techniques" include waterboarding, which is designed to simulate drowning. The Bush administration authorized waterboarding in the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

The purpose of the report was to establish whether the alleged crimes fall under the ICC's jurisdiction. The court has jurisdiction over crimes committed in member countries. Although the U.S. is not a member of the ICC, the alleged crimes took place in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania, all of which are members.

Former President Bill Clinton did sign the Rome treaty, which established the court. But President George W. Bush rescinded the U.S.'s membership.

There are a total of 120 ICC member nations, but superpowers like Russia, China and the U.S. are conspicuously absent from the international body.

Thus far, all ICC trials have dealt with crimes committed in Africa.

Journalist and academic David Bosco, who wrote a book about the ICC, told Al Jazeera that investigating the U.S. would be a significant move.

"This would be the first time that the ICC has set its sights on US personnel," Bosco said, "and it does look like they are going to be focusing on the activities of the CIA in Afghanistan in 2003, 2004, which makes it a serious investigation of CIA interrogation practices in the wake of 9/11.

"The prosecutor in this latest report also signals that she does not have confidence that the national judicial systems are going to do their job and therefore she wants to move forward with the investigation."

Sources: ICC Prosecutors Office, The Guardian, Al Jazeera / Photo Credit: The UN/Evan Schneider via the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

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