United Nations Official Strongly Suggests That Obama Is In Violation International Law in Refusing to Investigate War Crimes

225px-official_portrait_of_barack_obama125px-flag_of_the_united_nationssvgU.N. special rapporteur Manfred Nowak has gone public with a stinging indictment of President Barack Obama’s failure to investigate and prosecute officials for the American torture program, a clear war crime under existing treaties. Obama is in open violation of international law due to his failure to uphold the clear legal and moral obligations of this country.

For many months, I have been received a great deal of flak over this very same point (here and here: that Obama is in clear violation of international law. Nowak has now added a much more significant voice to the call for investigation and prosecution: “The United States, like all other states that are part of the U.N. convention against torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court.”

Former Bush officials, the Red Cross, the vast majority of legal experts, and numerous NGOs have confirmed these interrogations as premeditated torture. Obama and Holder have both declared waterboarding to be torture. The failure to simply appoint an independent investigator and allow the law to be enforced without concern for politics or passions. It is obvious that Obama does not want to allow an investigation that would likely lead to an indictment of Bush officials and probably Bush himself. If Obama wants to excuse war crimes, he can take the personal responsibility and pardon Bush and these officials — tying his own legacy to the commission of torture. However, his blocking of an investigation is an international outrage and puts us into the same category as countries like Serbia. Obama has the authority to pardon crimes, not obstruct efforts to investigate crimes for political purposes. This may not be politically advantageous for Obama, but these treaties do not exist for his comfort or advantage. We made a pledge to the world that we would aggressively pursue any war criminals — even if they happened to be made in the America.

The refusal to allow an investigation by a special prosecutor obstructs the enforcement of these laws, including our commitment under these treaties. Obviously, Obama and Holder cannot be charged with obstruction of justice for refusing to prosecute but they are obstructing the enforcement of these laws in violation of these international agreements. We have criticized other nations for such efforts to bar investigations or protect individuals accused of war crimes. Our obvious reluctance to allow a special prosecutor to pursue these allegations is whittling away the little credibility that we had after the Bush years on human rights.

For the full story, click here.

35 thoughts on “United Nations Official Strongly Suggests That Obama Is In Violation International Law in Refusing to Investigate War Crimes

  1. Strange, last time I checked America was still a sovereign nation. This is not an obstruction of justice since these extra-national tribunals have no standing in the US.

    There are treaties, yes. I think though that, if you look at the restrictions Congress placed on our ratification of them, you’ll find that the US has never agreed to allow foreign “courts” to decide what America does, nor prosecute Americans for actions taken within US territories.

  2. jonolan:

    We are an honorable people of our word or we are not.

    “Promises may fit the friends, but non-performance will turn them into enemies.”
    ~Benjamin Franklin

  3. “Obama has the authority to pardon crimes, not obstruct efforts to investigate crimes for political purposes.”

    I believe this is the heart of the matter. Investigation is required by law. It is shameful that the US must be told this by the UN. I give the UN great credit for standing up to this powerful, yet lawless president.

    Obama has a consistent pattern of ignoring our clear laws, laws he took an oath to uphold. He refuses to investigate financial or war crimes, crimes committed (and currently being committed) against our own citizens and citizens of other nations.

    This is profoundly wrong. I hope that the combined pressure of people of conscience from around the world will force Obama to follow our laws, to bring wrongdoers to account, to bring justice to those we have wronged and to restore the best of what the United States is, a country of law, not of men.

  4. Excerpt:

    Interview with Amy Goodman and Scott Horton on Middle East Online:


    AMY GOODMAN: We just got this report from Spain, Scott Horton. Spanish prosecutors have “formally recommended against an investigation into allegations that six senior Bush administration officials gave legal cover for the torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay. While their ruling is not binding, the announcement all but dooms prospects for the case against the men going forward.” That, a report from the Associated Press. Scott Horton, can you explain what you understand at this point?

    SCOTT HORTON: Well, the Associated Press is giving you extremely faulty legal analysis, because a decision as to whether the case will go forward rests entirely with the investigating judge. The Spanish system is not like the American system, where prosecutors decide who and when to bring cases and who to prosecute. In the Spanish system, the prosecution is managed by an investigating judge. In this case, it’s Baltasar Garzon. And you may recall, he handled the case involving Augusto Pinochet, and he did that against the stern opposition of Spanish prosecutors, I think which shows you the weight that that recommendation may hold with him in his court.

    But there’s a different consideration to weigh in here, as well, and that is that this is a statement that was announced by the prosecutors at the Audencia Nacional in Madrid, and we know, in fact, that those prosecutors who have made this recommendation not to go forward in fact concluded that the case should be prosecuted. They prepared a thirty-seven-page memorandum—and I’ve discussed, I’ve talked with several people in Madrid who have read it—that laid out the case, showed how it could fairly easily be brought, how it involved a joint criminal enterprise, how it could be sustained on the basis of documents, including some of those that were released yesterday. And that decision by the career prosecutors was overridden in a political act by Spain’s attorney general, who’s a political figure. He was a member of the cabinet of Prime Minister Jose Zapatero.

    Moreover, the attorney general’s decision, which was announced yesterday morning in Madrid, came after several days of high-level discussions between Washington and the Zapatero government, during the course of which, I’ve been told, the Obama administration suggested very strongly that the pendency of this case was inconvenient and that it would be viewed as a great favor by Washington if Zapatero’s government could do what was within its power to shut this down. And I think what we see here is an accommodating nod from Jose Zapatero.

    So it has really nothing to do with justice, and it has nothing to do with the merits of the case. It’s a political act. And it’s certain to be understood by the judges of the Audencia Nacional as a political act, which means I don’t think it really forms much of a barrier to the prosecution going forward.

  5. Can anyone tell me a single person at the United Nations that was ELECTED by the people of any country, USA included?

    When are you small people going to admit the UN is a corrupt bunch of thugs and relatives of thugs of third world countries using this “institution” to bribe, blackmail, and steal the wealth of other nations?

    WHO do you think represents the thugs of the world at the UN? Do you think some honest good person gets the job of being Ambassador to, as a single example, Venezuela? NO! It is relatives of the thugs running these countries and these thugs are owned by the thugs running the countries.

    You small people are just stupidly naive about everything!

  6. Again korn,

    Thank you for telegraphing the fears of the prior and present administration. It is good to know that they do not think they are, as yet, free and clear from accountability for their crimes. Thank you.

  7. Manfred seems able to only see “torture” in countries that have a free press to get him the publicity he seeks. He also is able to state with belicose authority that torture in countries that America helps get on their feet, such as Iraq, is ALWAYS worse after a despot like Saddam is deposed.

    In Manfred’s world it is best to be tortured by the despot you know, than just barely possibly being tortured by the elected Government you don’t know………..so don’t overthrow the despots.

    Manfred routinely bypasses the dozens of countries, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Venezuala, etc. that use torture routinely.

  8. Rahm Emanuel from HuffPo —

    Pressed a bit further about the security implications of such disclosures — the notion being that terrorists were somehow now briefed on the intricacies of American interrogation policy — Emanuel reminded the detractors that much of the info was already public knowledge.

    “One of the reasons the president was willing to let this information out [was that] the information was out,” he said. “So if they’re saying you basically have exposed something, it’s been written. Go get the New York Review of Books. It is there. So the notion that somehow we’re exposing something — it’s already been out. In fact, president Bush…allowed a lot of this information out. So the notion that somehow this all of a sudden is a game changer doesn’t take cognizance of the fact it’s in the system and in the public domain. Therefore, it’s not new… Number two: it’s one of the key tools al Qaeda has used for recruitment. There has been a net cost to America by changing the way America is seen in the world, which means banning this technique and practice, we have actually stopped them and prevented them from using it as a rallying cry.”

    There’s only one problem with that Rahm. Telling everyone the details of torture (a crime) but not doing anything to punish those responsible does not in fact “[prevent al Qaeda] from using it as a rallying cry.”

    It just tells them there is no consequence. Ergo, it actually enhances the propaganda utility of torture to al Qaeda.

    You’re not too bright considering your reputation, Rahm. are you?

  9. Korn,
    it doesn’t matter if someone was elected to represent us in the UN. What a ridiculous statement. The torture of these detainees violated US law also. When are you going to understand that Bush ordered people to torture detainees and that was a felony. That is not even including the international law violations. Go back home and finish playing your video games and let the adults deal with the Republican crimes that have gone unpunished and the possible crimes that have been committed by not investigating those crimes.
    Buddha, you are right again. The trolls are really out in force on these torture issues. It is obvious that the Bush cabal is nervous about the consequences of these crimes.

  10. I knew Obama would punk out on the war crimes issue. The neo-con neo-colonialist have bought them selves cover from criminal prosecution by ruining the economy. Hilarious.

  11. Korn:

    I stand by this definition. “Do not feed the trolls” and its abbreviation DNFTT redirect here. For the Wikipedia essay, see “What is a troll?”. For other uses see Troll (disambiguation).

    An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.[2]

    Please feed on another sites fodder.

  12. Buddha,

    That is a very good point. I see the spin misters are out in force today, including on the left. “Obama was so brave to release those memos. He’s our hero.” Oh? 1. he released them under a court order 2. as he and Rahm state, there was nothing that was not already in the public domain in one form or another 3. As JT and others have pointed out, this was not intelligence information, it was legal information to which we as citizens have a right and finally 4. by refusing to prosecute he has tried to nullify any meaning in releasing the memos. Had he said he would pardon the lower level officers and begun war crimes investigations I would applaud his actions. As is, it is a cynical, cowardly ploy to try to buy off most of the left and right. Buddha is absolutely correct to point out that failure to investigate along with his blanket immunization is a recruiting tool, making the people of the US less safe and shredding our moral standing in the world. This govt. is run like a mob syndicate. It should have a RICO suit filed against it.

  13. Mespo,

    I think you will find – though I might be mistaken in this case – that “our word” was carefully given alongside various limitations and caveats that expressly stated that no extra-American adjudication would be considered for American actions.

    Right or wrong – and that is matter of patriotism vs. globalism – that is the manner in which the US has normally ratified such treaties. I doubt it was different in this case.

  14. Um…Serbia perpetrated mass murder based on ethnic identity. The United States, after a Muslim terrorist attack on U.S. soil that killed 3,000 people, is causing minor discomfort to people who seek to perpetrate similar disasters.
    On another note, I don’t really put any stock in the opinion of an organization in which Russia is part of the security council and Iran is leading a conference on racism. Good for Obama for not trying to capitalize on Leftist anger and truly looking forward to the future. Obama knows a lot more than ANY of us know about what is happening/happened, so maybe the lefties should just let it go.

  15. It should be obvious to all what is going on here. This is Israel vs the UN and the rest of the world. Rahm Emanuel is a dual citizen who served as a volunteer in the Israeli “Defence” Force. His father was a member of the Zionist Irgun terrorist cell, a predecessor of the Likud. He no doubt considers the torture of those declared to be enemies of Israel-er-the United States to be of the highest form of patriotism.

  16. Obama can only pardon US law crimes, he can’t pardon international war crimes, can he? Come on come on Spain…

    (…is it better or worse if Spain is the country that brings the charges?)

    Also, wouldn’t this be the same as Ford’s pardon of Nixon, in that accepting the pardon meant accepting guilt for the crime? That would only help Spain, no? Come on come on Spain…

  17. If it were Saudi Arabia that tortured Americans, or Iran that tortured Americans, wouldn’t we want the UN to step up & speak out?? I don’t understand what is wrong with what they’re doing.
    I’m a 100% Obama supporter. That said, I thought that so far he’s only said he wouldn’t prosecute the CIA operatives; that didn’t include the higher ups. Has he said he is refusing to have war crimes investigated?
    My “hope” is they’re going to go after the top guns, unlike how Abu Ghraib was handled.
    I don’t see why he would want to block an investigation of the Bush Regime. I certainly hope that’s not the case. He clearly said he’d have him investigated, during his campaign. That is what got me to even pay attention to him.
    Only time will tell. I hope he keeps his word.

  18. As far as Pardons go, you know I never did understand the idea of a preemptive pardon anyway. . .
    A pardon is executive clemency for a convicted crime; if the perp in question never got convicted yet, how could the executive pardon him/her.
    I would seem to me that these cia agents who tortured, although pardonable legally by Obama, would still have to be prosecuted and convicted of the crimes before any pardon would be legally appropriate.
    No prosecutor or judge should accept an illegal preemptive “pardon” as an excuse to not try them in court.

  19. These are two headlines from this morning’s Huffington Post:

    CQ: Rep. Harman Recorded On Wiretap Promising To Intervene For AIPAC, Say Sources

    Former AG Alberto Gonzales Dropped The Probe Because He Wanted Her Help Defending Warrantless Wiretapping

    These are both very disturbing on many levels.

    A member of Congress was heard on a court-approved wiretap (problem 1) promising “a suspected Israeli agent” she’d lobby the DOJ to reduce some espionage chrges against two AIPAC members (problem 2). In return, the “agent” promised to lobby Speaker Pelosi to name Harman to head the Intelligence Committee (problem 3). To top it off, then-AG Gonzales read the trandscripts, saw an opening and pressured Harman to support the illegal wiretapping program (Problem 4).

  20. bUDDHA:

    that was a good point about the release of torture particulars and the use of such as recruiting tool.

    Osama- “Venal American dogs make mockery of our courageous brothers. they are all cowards”

    I can see it now.

    You know what the more I think about this torture stuff the more I understand where you guys are coming from. I even found myself responding to my wife about how you cant make rules as you go along and find people that will say whatever you want them to say the constitution means. It’s really worked out well with the Patriot Act (which I was against from the beginning) hasnt it.

    Jesus, I really did drink the Bush KoolAide. Well better late than never to have a high colonic
    to remove that shit from my brains.

    Thanks for the help down the path to enlightenment on this issue. Although I dont know if I would try him and fry him. Maybe a show trial ruin him professionaly screw his legacy and fine him a few thousand and then make him do a mea culpa lap around the world.

    I honestly think that most conservative Americans (like I was) would not tolerate Bush being tried for war crimes and it would cause a political firestorm on the right. You would really have to do some intellectual ground work on the right to get what you want. Prof. Turley has done a lot but he needs to make his point to more than Just KO and RM, they have a very limited audience. I watch them once in awhile.

    That Khalid Sheik Mohammed post about the 183 times tortured was a good one and the fact that we dont even know for sure if he was indeed the head guy for 9/11. It really does start to sound like some pissant trying to pull the wings off flies for crawling on the peach cobbler at the 4th of July Picnic.

  21. Jane,

    Here’s a very likely answer for you from Emanuel”

    “STEPHANOPOULOS: What about those who devised policy?

    EMANUEL: Yes, but those who devised policy, he believes that they were — should not be prosecuted either, and that’s not the place that we go — as he said in that letter, and I would really recommend people look at the full statement — not the letter, the statement — in that second paragraph, “this is not a time for retribution.” It’s time for reflection. It’s not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back and any sense of anger and retribution.”


    That is very disturbing.

  22. Mespo:

    We are an honorable people of our word or we are not.

    “Promises may fit the friends, but non-performance will turn them into enemies.”
    ~Benjamin Franklin


    So Mespo, what ever happened to…

    “AS usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a right to; so tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to.”

    “Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another.” — John Locke

  23. Judge Garzon rules!!!!!

    “April 17, 2009, New York –The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which represents many of the men detained by the U.S. government at Guantánamo, praised Spanish judge Baltazar Garzon’s decision to pursue a criminal investigation into the actions of six Bush administration lawyers for providing legal cover for torture at the base. His move comes the day after the Spanish attorney General overrode his prosecutors to recommend that the case not go forward. CCR attorneys hailed the decision as an important step in holding these officials and others accountable for their crimes. The case may well lead to investigations of top officials, including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.”

  24. This is a very well reasoned/written open letter to Obama by a group of law teachers. It is well worth reading.

    “To disavow prosecution of those who engaged in interrogation methods you now condemn is to taint the honor of our uniformed military and civilian professionals who – in the darkest days of the “war on terror” – resisted such instructions and the mounting pressure to comply that pervaded certain US-controlled prisons and interrogation centers. These brave men and women refused to engage in inhuman and degrading treatment and torture despite the purported guidance offered in these newly released memos.

    These memos appear to be offering legal guidance, but they do not. As professionals whose task it is to teach and evaluate legal analysis, we believe it is painfully obvious that these memos are not dispassionate advice of the kind on which one could rely reasonably, but instead distort the very nature of legal analysis, creating a mockery of the rule of law.”


  25. Jill,

    Thanks for the link and I have to second the proposal of John Durham as special prosecutor.

  26. And the lawyers aren’t getting prosecuted either. What a suprise.

    “CNN’S ED HENRY: Just so I understand, you’re saying the people in the CIA who followed through on what they were told was legal, they should not be prosecuted? But why not the Bush administration lawyers who, in the eyes of a lot of your supporters on the left, twisted the law, why are they not being held accountable?

    GIBBS: The president is focused on looking forward. That’s why.”

  27. President Obama USA

    There is a great tension/crisis in the world currently do something; Send a strong delegation to areas with crisis/tension in conjunction with other nations to elevate the situation.

    Unnecessary war can erupt at any time, it has to be avoided.

    President Medvedev Russia

    If a chemical war erupts now at the Far East, who do you think will safer.

    King Abdul Saudi Arabia

    Do you think you can do something about the current world crisis/tension, are not very quiet;

    OAU Africa

    Do you think Africa will be isolated when another war (chemical) erupts. It is better for you to join other world communities/leaders and elevate this situation which posses as world threat number one. Condemning only does not help.

    To be kind to a civilized people, the world will be a peacefully and a happy place to live.

    To be kind to obstinate people does not make them kind as well, on the other hand, they can create a problem/danger/war at any time. (they can create any situation they so wish regardless of your kindness).

    Prevention is better than cure.

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