The CIA is impartial

Criminal Court: Finally Justice for CIA Victims?

Status: 05.11.20 6:00 a.m.
by Armin Ghassim, Jonas Schreij├Ąg

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is hoping for a rethink in the USA. The Trump administration had sanctioned the lawyer for investigating possible US war crimes in Afghanistan.

"We hope the US will reconsider its hostile attitude towards the international criminal court," said Fatou Bensouda in an interview with Panorama. "The USA in particular always takes great pride in its respect for human rights and the rule of law," said the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It is incomprehensible that the US is taking action against a court that fights for human rights.

Criminal court announced investigation into Afghanistan

In September, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda and one of her high-ranking employees. Their accounts have been frozen and entry into the United States has been banned. Even those who support Bensouda in their work must expect sanctions; for example US attorneys who assist the international court. The reason for the unprecedented move by the US government was that Bensouda investigates war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Afghanistan conflict. In addition to allegations against the Taliban and the Afghan army, there are also possible crimes committed by the US military and the US foreign intelligence service, the CIA. The so-called black sites, CIA secret prisons in Poland, Romania and Lithuania, among others, are also being investigated. There the CIA is said to have systematically tortured terror suspects from Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

The US Secretary of State and former CIA chief Mike Pompeo had already said in the summer: "We will not watch our people being threatened by this mock court." He chose the term "kangaroo court", which is also used in the USA for the sham courts under Hitler, Stalin or the former dictator of Cambodia, Pol Pot.

Sanctions against the criminal court: unprecedented process

It is the first time in the history of the ICC that a country has imposed sanctions on the court staff. The lawyer from Gambia and former Justice Minister of her country was shocked by the sanctions in an interview with Panorama: "It is shocking that the sanctions that are normally imposed on terrorists, drug smugglers and war criminals are now being imposed on those who fight for human rights. That is unacceptable and an abuse of sanctions. "

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) also criticized the US sanctions in a Bundestag debate last week. The sanctions are "a big mistake that I hope will be corrected in the foreseeable future". Germany is "resolutely in favor of bringing the perpetrators to account, everywhere we can". Members of the CDU, the FDP, the Greens and the Left expressed similar views.

German CIA victim also joins a lawsuit before the criminal court

The Khaled el Masri case also plays a role in the criminal court's investigations. The German was kidnapped by the CIA in 2003 and tortured and interrogated in a secret prison near Kabul. Only after six months was he released in a forest in Albania. Years later, the CIA admitted it had mistaken el Masri. The German government learned of the kidnapping of el Masri at an early stage, but never handed over a German arrest warrant for the CIA kidnappers to the USA. Apparently under pressure from US diplomats, as a document later revealed by WikiLeaks showed.

Even 17 years after el Masri's torture and abduction, the alleged perpetrators were not brought to justice. Should there be a trial in The Hague, the 57-year-old wants to participate with the help of human rights lawyers. According to panorama information, el Masri has applied for "victim status" for a possible main hearing.

Joe Biden is not a friend of the criminal court either

The USA's rejection of the International Criminal Court has a long tradition - even among democratic presidents. When asked, Joe Biden did not say whether he would withdraw the penalties against the criminal court as the future president. However, according to Panorama research, Biden had already spoken out against the court in 1998. At that time, 123 states decided to establish the International Criminal Court with the "Rome Statute".

At the time, Biden feared that the criminal court could prosecute US forces abroad. Even during his time as Vice President (2009 to 2017), the USA did not submit to the case law of the International Criminal Court. In the USA there is even a law in force according to which US citizens convicted by the criminal court could be militarily liberated from The Hague if necessary.

On Germany's initiative, 72 states have now condemned the US sanctions against the International Criminal Court. "We reaffirm our unwavering support for the Court of Justice as an independent and impartial judicial institution," declared the states at the UN General Assembly in New York.