Torture Charges against the US Considered by International Criminal Court

By John LaForge

US armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says in a recent report, raising the possibility that US citizens could be indicted.

“Members of 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 between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014,” according to the Nov. 14 ICC report issued by Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s office in The Hague.

The report says that CIA operatives may have subjected at least 27 detainees at its secret prisons in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania — to “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity” including rape, between December 2002 and March 2008. Individuals captured by US forces in Afghanistan were transferred to the secret CIA prisons, sometimes referred to as “black sites” where prisoners were chained to ceilings, “chained to walls and forgotten [one for 17 days] froze to death on concrete floors, and were waterboarded until they lost consciousness” according to the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the torture program.

On Dec. 9, 2005, the State Department’s deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the United States would continue to deny the Red Cross access to prisoners it was holding secretly around the world, claiming they were terrorists who were not guaranteed any rights under the Geneva Conventions. The Red Cross complained that its central purpose is to protect the human rights of prisoners, all of whom deserve protection under international humanitarian law — binding treaty laws that include the absolute, unambiguous prohibition against torture.

More than 120 countries are members of the ICC, but the US is not. Although the US refused to join the 2002 Rome Statute that created the ICC and established its authority, US military personnel and CIA agents could still face prosecution because their crimes were allegedly committed within Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania — all members of the ICC.

The ICC’s jurisdiction can be invoked when allegations of war crimes are not investigated and prosecuted by the home governments of the accused. The Guardian reported that the “ICC is a court of last resort that takes on cases only when other countries are unable or unwilling to prosecute.” Writing in Foreign Policy magazine last October, David Bosco noted, “The prosecutor’s office has repeatedly called attention to alleged abuses of detainees by US personnel between 2003 and 2005 that it believes have not been adequately addressed by the United States.”

“Committed with particular cruelty”

Bensouda’s report says about alleged US war crimes, 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 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,” the ICC report says.

Reuters noted that the Senate committee released 500 pages of excerpts from its report and found that torture was committed. Official photographs of the abuse are evidently so incriminating that the military, as recently as February 9th this year, refused to release 1,800 pictures that the public has never seen.

The George W. Bush administration, which authorized and implemented torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and the offshore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay, was fiercely opposed to the ICC, but Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland and Romania are all members, which gives the court jurisdiction over crimes committed within those territories. This could lead to prosecution of US citizens.

Both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have boasted in public about waterboarding which was sanctioned, “legalized,” and practiced widely under their command authority. Asked during a televised interview about what he called this “enhanced interrogation technique,” Mr. Cheney said, “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

During a Republican primary debate Donald Trump said, “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” a statement he repeated many times. Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of both the CIA the NSA, reacted in a televised interview: “If he [Trump] were to order that, once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act. You are required to not follow an unlawful order. That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.” President-elect Trump also repeatedly called for targeted assassinations of family members of suspected terrorists. Both actions are prohibited by US military service manuals and by international treaty law, crimes ultimately prosecuted by the ICC.


John LaForge, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and is co-editor with Arianne Peterson of Nuclear Heartland, Revised: A Guide to the 450 Land-Based Missiles of the United States.

2 Responses

  1. I wonder if all the target indivuals instead to bring their case before National Court could also bring their case before the security council of United Nations in order to bring our case before I.C.C International Criminal Court.
    We could do a massive complaint with the standard structure you will build to our national ambassador to United Nations and also to the 5 current representative members of the security council.

    The main problem is not the coordination I think, it’s to have the contact at United Nations to send our e-mails. If we have the good contact and we do a massive complaint, maybe it could work because a complaint before National Court maybe will be stop very quickly. I do not say to complain before National Court will be unefficient, I say we could tried the both before National court and United Nations. The good things with United Nations, is the ambassadors aren’t involved in same way than National Court, in the State Surveillance. If we do the same massive complaint before National Courts and United Nations at the same date with the same structure, in differents language to our National Court and with e-mail to the good contacts in United Nations, it mays work.

    In fact there are two ways to complain befor I.C.C, a National State do a complaint, and the other is the security council of United Nations do a complaint.

    I think the writting structure of this massive complaint have to be the more juridic and scientific as it is possible. The scientific evidence of this technologies have to be collected in order to be used as reference by everyone one who want to participate to this global and massive complaint; in particular all the patents who prooves that this technologies does exist and since 40 years.

    To do a global massive complaint we have to go to the more forums and website the more facebook and others than we could do and to explain our strategy. A massive complaint, with the same structure, at the same date, and before National Court and before United Nations representative members and Security council Members of United Nations.

    We can use all the infrastructure of the web to do a global material complaint.
    Doctor Katherine Hoton have to build a team and to lead this team for the coordination of this massive and global complaint at the same date.
    In this team we have to recruit lawyers who are victims of gangstalkings, I think they are a lot.
    If you need help, i want to be a part of this team, to work for this goal.
    I’m not a lawyer.

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