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
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. . . .
["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,
[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
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]
[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
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
[ . . . 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]
[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]
[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]