ICC Afghanistan 'war crimes' probe requested with US military among targets
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has asked judges to authorise an investigation in Afghanistan of allegations of war crimes by the US military and CIA, crimes against humanity by the Taliban and war crimes by Afghan security forces.
The announcement on Monday marks the first time ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has pursued Americans for alleged war crimes.
The United States is not a member state of the court, but its nationals can be charged with crimes committed in countries that are members.
As well as alleged crimes by American forces in Afghanistan, Ms Bensouda wants to investigate CIA operatives for their roles in secret detention facilities in Afghanistan and other countries that are court members.
There is no set timeframe for judges to rule on the request.
The US State Department said in a statement that it was reviewing Ms Bensouda's authorisation request, but opposes the ICC's involvement in Afghanistan.
"Our view is clear: an ICC investigation with respect to USpersonnel would be wholly unwarranted and unjustified," the State Department said.
"More broadly, our overall assessment is that commencement of an ICC investigation will not serve the interests of either peace or justice in Afghanistan."
As well as alleged crimes by American troops in Afghanistan, Ms Bensouda wants to investigate the activities of CIA operatives in secret detention facilities in Afghanistan and other countries that are court members.
She said in a summary of her request that "information available provides a reasonable basis to believe" that US military personnel and CIA operatives "committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period".
She added that the Taliban and its allies are suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes "as part of a widespread and systematic campaign of intimidation, targeted killings and abductions of civilians" perceived as supporting the government or opposing the Taliban rebels.
Afghan security forces are, in turn, suspected of involvement in "systematic patterns of torture and cruel treatment of conflict-related detainees in Afghan detention facilities, including acts of sexual violence", Ms Bensouda said.
Richard Dicker, the international justice director at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the request.
It "signals that victims there who have endured horrific crimes dating back to May 2003 may finally obtain some justice," he said.
"The request to pursue abuses by all sides, including those implicating US personnel, reinforces the message that no one, no matter how powerful the government they serve, is beyond the law."