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Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 10:41

US says war crimes probe of its forces in Afghanistan unwarranted

By Reuters
US says war crimes probe of its forces in Afghanistan unwarranted
In this on Oct 11, 2012 photo, US Army soldiers operating under the International Security Assistance Force patrol near Baraki Barak base in Logar Province. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor said in a report Monday that US armed forces and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan. (Munir Uz Zaman / AFP)

WASHINGTON – An International Criminal Court investigation of possible war crimes by US forces in Afghanistan is not "warranted or appropriate," the US State Department said on Tuesday after prosecutors in The Hague found initial grounds for such a probe.

We do not believe that an ICC examination or investigation with respect to actions of US personnel in relation to the situation in Afghanistan is warranted or appropriate

Elizabeth Trudeau, State Department spokeswoman

State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the US was not a party to the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court in The Hague and had not consented to ICC jurisdiction. She also said Washington had a robust justice system able to deal with such complaints.

"The United States is deeply committed to complying with the law of war," Trudeau told reporters at a news briefing. "We do not believe that an ICC examination or investigation with respect to actions of US personnel in relation to the situation in Afghanistan is warranted or appropriate."

Her comments came a day after prosecutors at the International Criminal Court said in a report that there was a "reasonable basis to believe" that U S forces had tortured at least 61 prisoners in Afghanistan and another 27 at CIA detention facilities elsewhere in 2003 and 2004.

The prosecutors' office, headed by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, said it would decide imminently whether to pursue a full investigation. The results could lead to charges being brought against individuals and the issuing of arrest warrants.

The United States occupied Afghanistan in 2001 as it went after al-Qaeda leaders behind the Sept 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Crimes also may have been committed at US Central Intelligence Agency facilities in Poland, Lithuania and Romania, where some people captured in Afghanistan were taken, prosecutors said.

The US Justice Department between 2009 and 2012 investigated CIA mistreatment of detainees , including a full criminal investigation into two deaths in US custody, but ultimately decided against prosecuting anyone.

Some US military personnel have been prosecuted for murder and other crimes in Afghanistan.

The ICC was established in 1998 to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Trudeau noted the United States has "engaged with the ICC and we've supported ICC investigations and prosecution of cases that we believe advance our values in accordance with US law."

But she said the US military was held to "the highest possible standards" and the US had systems of accountability capable of dealing with war crimes allegations.

"We do an extraordinary job of investigating ... credible allegations, holding ourselves accountable, holding our personnel accountable and closing investigations in a manner that serves justice," she said.

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