THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
April 22, 2009
The Washington Post

European Nations May Investigate Bush Officials Over Prisoner Treatment

by Craig Whitlock

European prosecutors are likely to investigate CIA and Bush administration officials on suspicion of violating an international ban on torture if they are not held legally accountable at home, according to U.N. officials and human rights lawyers.

Many European officials and civil liberties groups said they were disappointed by President Obama's opposition to trials of CIA interrogators who subjected terrorism suspects to waterboarding and other harsh tactics. They said the release last week of secret U.S. Justice Department memos authorizing the techniques will make it easier for foreign prosecutors to open probes if U.S. officials do not.

Some European countries, under a legal principle known as universal jurisdiction, have adopted laws giving themselves the authority to investigate torture, genocide and other human rights crimes anywhere in the world, even if their citizens are not involved. Although it is rare for prosecutors to win such cases, those targeted can face arrest if they travel abroad.

Martin Scheinin, the U.N. special investigator for human rights and counterterrorism, said the interrogation techniques approved by the Bush administration clearly violated international law. He said the lawyers who wrote the Justice Department memos, as well as senior figures such as former vice president Richard B. Cheney, will probably face legal trouble overseas if they avoid prosecution in the United States.

"Torture is an international crime irrespective of the place where it is committed. Other countries have an obligation to investigate," Scheinin said in a telephone interview from Cairo. "This may be something that will be haunting CIA officials, or Justice Department officials, or the vice president, for the rest of their lives."

Manfred Nowak, another senior U.N. official who investigates torture accusations, said the Obama administration is violating terms of the U.N. Convention Against Torture by effectively granting amnesty to CIA interrogators. He said the United States, as a signatory to the treaty, is legally obligated to investigate suspected cases of torture. He also said Washington must provide compensation to torture victims, including al-Qaeda leaders who were waterboarded. . . .

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"U.S. Military, Mercenaries Torture Iraq Prisoners," The Wisdom Fund, April 30, 2004

"Dirty War: Our Monsters In Iraq," The Wisdom Fund, November 18, 2005

["The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding," [McCain] told reporters at a campaign event. . . .

McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as "water cure," "water torture" and "waterboarding," according to the charging documents.--Jonathan Stein, "Yes, We Did Execute Japanese Soldiers for Waterboarding American POWs," Mother Jones, April 27, 2009

[Torture is a crime under US law. It is a crime under the Third Geneva Convention, and the UN's Anti-Torture Convention, both of which the US signed. Kidnapping and moving suspects to be tortured in third countries is a crime. Torture violates core American values. . . .

The director of the FBI, Robert Muller, one of Washington's most upright, respected officials, also declared that torture had not prevented any attacks against the United States. Both findings directly contradict claims by America's own Torquemada, Dick Cheney, that torture prevented major attacks.

CIA "useful" torture information came from two suspects: Khalid Sheik Mohammed was tortured by near drowning 183 times - six times daily for a month; and Abu Zubaydah, 83 times in August, 2003. . . .

A shocking US Senate report just revealed that after the Bush administration could not find the links it claimed existed between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, it tried, in best Soviet style, to torture its captives to admit that such links did, in fact, exist.--Eric Margolis, "America's Shame," lewrockwell.com, April 28, 2009]

VIDEO: Robert Fisk "The Age of the Warrior," LinkTV, April 28, 2009

AUDIO: "Gen. Janis Karpinski On The Coming Release Of More Torture Photos," americanfreedomradio.com, April 30, 2009

Jonathan Turley, "Three Legal Truths: The Case for The Prosecution of War Crimes By the Bush Administration," jonathanturley.org, May 8, 2009

[Al-Libi's false confession that was exploited as propaganda to lead us into the Iraq War confirms to us that torture works only in the sense that it breaks the person tortured.--Benjamin Davis, "The Man Who Knew Too Much? A Convenient Suicide in a Libyan Prison," Jurist, May 12, 2009]

VIDEO: "Torture: The Ticking Time Bomb," MSNBC, Rachel Madow Show, May 13, 2009

[But what about that presidential determination that Congress had required him to make in order to make the use of that congressional authorization legal? Well, Bush has yet to provide such a presidential determination!

So now you know why Bush-Cheney tortured all those Muslims: to get them to "admit" that they were the war-criminals, not Bush-Cheney.--Gordon Prather, "Torture's Role in the Rush to War With Iraq," antiwar.com, May 16, 2009]

[ . . . torture has been routinely practiced from the early days of the conquest of the national territory, and continued to be used as the imperial ventures of the "infant empire" - as George Washington called the new republic - extended to the Philippines, Haiti, and elsewhere. Keep in mind as well that torture was the least of the many crimes of aggression, terror, subversion, and economic strangulation that have darkened U.S. history, much as in the case of other great powers.--Noam Chomsky, "Why We Can't See the Trees or the Forest: The Torture Memos and Historical Amnesia," tomdispatch.com, May 19, 2009]

Ben Ehrenreich, "Torture, the painful truth: It may be a blow to our self-image, but torture has been part of the American way for decades," latimes.com, June 15, 2009

Chris McGreal, "George W Bush should be prosecuted over torture, says human rights group," Guardian, July 12, 2011

[In February of 2006, Philip Zelikow, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, authored a memo opposing the Bush administration's torture practices (though he employed the infamous obfuscation of "enhanced interrogation techniques"). The White House tried to collect and destroy all copies of the memo, but one survived in the State Department's bowels and was declassified yesterday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Security Archive.--Jordan Michael Smith, "The memo Bush tried to destroy," salon.com, April 4, 2012]

Joseph Margulies, "Abu Zubaydah, the man justice has forgotten," latimes.com, May 16, 2012

[What is novel about the Constitution Project's report is that it was headed by Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, and James R. Jones, a Democrat. It flatly states that America engaged in torture.--Jacob Heilbrunn, "The Constitution Project's Vital Terrorism and Torture Report," nationalinterest.org, April 16, 2013]

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