THE HAGUE, Netherlands — U.S. armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said in a report Monday, raising the possibility that American citizens could be indicted even though Washington has not joined the global court.
An Afghan Local Police cadet searches a detainee for contraband during security checkpoint training at Regional Training Center Laghman, Laghman province, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2012.
Photo Credit: Spc. Ryan Hallgarth/Army
Prosecutors say investigations also are reportedly under way in Poland, Romania and Lithuania — all signatories to the Rome Statute — into possible crimes at CIA detention facilities in those countries.
The abuse allegations came in a wide-ranging annual report into the prosecution office's so-called preliminary examinations, which involve studying reports of possible crimes to establish if they fall under the court's jurisdiction.
The same report said that Taliban and Afghan government forces also may have used torture and committed other atrocities in that country's long and bitter conflict. The report says that the Taliban and its affiliates killed thousands of people and are suspected of committing war crimes including murder, recruiting and conscripting child soldiers and attacking civilians and humanitarian workers.
Referring to the alleged U.S. war crimes, the report said they "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 report adds that, "The information available suggests that victims were deliberately subjected to physical and psychological violence, and that crimes were allegedly committed with particular cruelty and in a manner that debased the basic human dignity of the victims."
Before deciding to open a full-scale investigation, ICC prosecutors have to establish whether they have jurisdiction and whether the alleged crimes are being investigated and prosecuted in the countries involved. The ICC is a court of last resort that takes on cases only when other countries are unable or unwilling to prosecute.
The report noted that U.S. authorities have conducted dozens of investigations and court martial cases and says ICC prosecutors are seeking further clarifications on their scope before deciding whether any American cases would be admissible at the ICC.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the administration of President George W. Bush allowed the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists. President Barack Obama banned such practices after taking office in 2009.
During the presidential campaign, Republican nominee Donald Trump suggested that as president he would push to change laws that prohibit waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques, arguing that banning them puts the U.S. at a strategic disadvantage against Islamic State militants.
AP National Security Writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.