(CN) – Describing allegations of rape, torture and sexual humiliation, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor went into unprecedented detail Monday about why U.S. forces and the CIA should face a war-crimes investigation.
“Taking into account the gravity of the crimes and the interests of the victims, there are no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice,” prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wrote in her 181-page memo.
If authorized by a three-judge panel, the requested probe would look into crimes by Afghan, Taliban and U.S. officials in war-torn Afghanistan since May 2003, as well as at alleged CIA black sites in eastern Europe since July 2002.
The memo identifies at least 54 U.S. military detainees and 24 CIA captives allegedly subjected to “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and/or sexual violence.”
Bensouda said that CIA interrogators “penetrated the anal opening of at least two detainees” by the coercive practices known as “rectal rehydration,” “rectal feeding” or “rectal examination.”
This practice had been among the most gruesome revelations of the U.S. Senate’s investigation into the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, memorialized several years ago in what is known as the torture report.
Quoting this document, Bensouda wrote: “Rectal rehydration or rectal feeding entailed positioning the detainee ‘in a forward-facing position […] with head lower than torso,’ inserting a ‘tube up as far as you can’ into the rectum, and delivering liquids or puréed foods through the tube into the anus of the detainee.”
The prosecutor claims that 20 U.S. military and CIA detainees experienced “other forms of sexual violence.”
“In particular, the information available provides a reasonable basis to believe that the 20 detainees concerned were subjected to acts involving forced nudity, often in combination with other techniques, including during interrogations; photographing detainees naked; public exposure to female soldiers while detainees showered; sexual humiliation; being shown pornographic material with a picture of the detainee’s mother; physical molestation; sexual assault by a female soldier; and beatings on testicles,” she wrote.
Every citation for these alleged acts has been redacted from Bensouda’s memo.
The CIA referred all comment to the Department of State, whose spokeswoman insisted on anonymity in criticizing the probe.
“Our view is clear: an ICC investigation with respect to U.S. personnel would be wholly unwarranted and unjustified,” she wrote. “More broadly, our overall assessment is that commencement of an ICC investigation will not serve the interests of either peace or justice in Afghanistan.”
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bensouda emphasized in her memo that the U.S. and Afghan government’s refusal to prosecute torture brought her to this point.
“Near total impunity has been the rule, not the exception, for the above crimes,” she wrote.
Although former President Barack Obama shuttered the CIA’s program early in his tenure, the Justice Department closed its torture probe without bringing criminal charges. The scope of the investigation looked only into agents accused of overstepping the CIA’s guidelines, not those who authorized so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding.
Describing such acts as “simulated drowning,” Bensouda listed it among the brutal CIA interrogation methods that she wants to investigate: including stress positions, sleep deprivation and physical assault.
Richard Dicker, the international justice director at Human Rights Watch, applauded Bensouda’s announcement.
“The ICC prosecutor’s investigation request is a strong signal to those who thought they could escape justice for serious crimes in Afghanistan,” Dicker said in a statement. “Investigating 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.”