One of the most vocal human rights groups in the U.S. is calling on foreign governments to prosecute President George W. Bush and his former cabinet for war crimes, given that the Obama administration has avoided the issue. In a report published today, New York-based Human Rights Watch says Bush, former vice president Dick Cheney, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA director George Tenet could be prosecuted under the 1996 War Crimes Act, among other laws. "There is enough strong evidence from the information made public over the past five years to not only suggest these officials authorized and oversaw widespread and serious violations of US and international law, but that they failed to act to stop mistreatment, or punish those responsible after they became aware of serious abuses," read the report. It accused the Bush administration of approving waterboarding, authorizing the CIA's detention program and carrying out illegal abductions involving torture, saying an investigation is necessary "if the US hopes to wipe away the stain of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo and reaffirm the primacy of the rule of law." The author of the report, Reed Brody, says he's calling on an investigation now because "[i]t's become abundantly clear that there is no longer any movement on the part of the Obama administration to live up to its responsibilities to investigate these cases." As the BBC notes, President Bush has "defended some of the techniques, saying they prevented attacks and saved lives." [emphasis added]I realize that President Obama has a great deal to deal with right now, what with the GOP holding the economy hostage in order to guarantee their millionaire and billionaire base pay as little tax as possible, but war crimes are war crimes.
And war crimes were committed. Failing to prosecute (or at least investigate) them is covering them up. Obama is letting Bush get away with torture. And that's indefensible.
Here's the report.
From the Summary:
For example, the Bush administration authorized coercive interrogation practices by the CIA and the military that amounted to torture, and instituted an illegal secret CIA detention program in which detainees were held in undisclosed locations without notifying their families, allowing access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, or providing for oversight of their treatment. Detainees were also unlawfully rendered (transferred) to countries such as Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, where they were likely to be tortured. Indeed, many were, including Canadian national Maher Arar who described repeated beatings with cables and electrical cords during the 10 months he was held in Syria, where the US sent him in 2002. Evidence suggests that torture in such cases was not a regrettable consequence of rendition; it may have been the purpose.The report gives a handy outline of the US laws violated. From the section titled Individual Criminal Responsibility:
At the same time, politically appointed administration lawyers drafted legal memoranda that sought to provide legal cover for administration policies on detention and interrogation.
The acts and abuses discussed in this report violate various provisions of US federal law, including the Crimes and Criminal Procedure Statute, Chapter 18 of the US Code (U.S.C.), which prohibits: torture (section 2340A(a)); assault (section 113); sexual abuse (sections 2241-2246); kidnapping (section 1201); homicide (sections 1111-1112 and section 2332); acts against rights (for example, sections 241-242, prohibiting conspiracies to deprive persons of their legal rights); war crimes (section 2441); conspiracy and solicitation of violent crimes (sections 371 and 373); and conspiracy to commit torture (section 2340A(c)).In a section titled "Duty to Investigate and Provide Redress" we read:
The War Crimes Act of 1996 provides criminal punishment for whomever, inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, if either the perpetrator or the victim is a member of the US Armed Forces or a national of the United States. A “war crime” is defined as any “grave breach” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions or acts that violate Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions. “Grave breaches” include “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment” of prisoners of war and of civilians qualified as “protected persons.” Common Article 3 prohibits murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
Under international law, states are obligated to investigate credible allegations of war crimes and serious violations of human rights committed by their nationals and members of their armed forces, or over which they have jurisdiction, and appropriately prosecute those responsible.But if investigations/prosecutions won't be happening here in the land of the brave, home of the free, perhaps they can occur else where.
War crimes are serious violations of international humanitarian law committed willfully—that is, deliberately or recklessly—and give rise to individual criminal responsibility. Individuals may be held criminally responsible for directly committing war crimes or for war crimes committed pursuant to their orders. They may also be held criminally liable for attempting to commit war crimes, as well as planning, instigating, assisting, facilitating, and aiding or abetting them.
The US also has a duty to investigate serious violations of international human rights law and punish the perpetrators. As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the US has an obligation to ensure that any person whose rights are violated “shall have an effective remedy” when the violation has been committed by government officials or agents. Those seeking a remedy shall have this right determined by competent judicial, administrative, or legislative authorities. And when granted, these remedies shall be enforced by competent authorities.
From the section on Foreign State Proceedings:
The US failure to conduct criminal investigations into the role and responsibility of high-ranking civilian and military officials for alleged crimes against detainees has opened the door for national judicial systems in foreign states to pursue investigations and, if warranted, prosecutions under the doctrines of “universal jurisdiction” and “passive personality” jurisdiction.Among my many disappointments with the Obama administration, this has to be the disappoint-iest.
Disappointments based on policy or political realities are one thing, but letting someone get away with a war crime is something completely different.
Prosecute the war crimes. It's the only right thing to do.