London Mayor Tells Bush To Stay Out of Londontown — Will International Shunning Become Prosecution?

Boris Johnson, the conservative Mayor of London, has declared George Bush a persona non grata — asking him to stay out of London with his new torture-touting memoir. The question is whether such international shunning will become actual effort to prosecute Bush, who just confessed to war crimes. I discussed the controversy on Countdown.

Johnson begins his column without mincing words:

It is not yet clear whether George W Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs, but if I were his PR people I would urge caution. As book tours go, this one would be an absolute corker. It is not just that every European capital would be brought to a standstill, as book-signings turned into anti-war riots. The real trouble — from the Bush point of view — is that he might never see Texas again.

It seems that, while our own Democratic and Republican leaders do not want to discuss torture (let alone investigate it), the Mayor of London is not keen on a former leader flogging his memoir and proudly proclaiming how he ordered the torture of suspects.

The controversy may only be the first international reaction to the book. While our media has discussed the book rather matter-of-factly as acknowledging his order to waterboard suspects, other nations take international treaties seriously and view this as an admission of a war crime.
Previously, Cheney and others were the subject of international calls for arrest after they admitted to roles in the torture program. The United States has a clear obligation to prosecute those responsible for our torture program. However, President Obama has promised to block any investigation of torturers and has stopped any investigation of those who ordered the war crime. In the absence of nations enforcing their international obligations, other nations will often set forward to enforce the rule of law.

Such claims are sometimes based on universal jurisdiction (or the universality principle) which asserts the right under public international law for any state to enforce laws against crimes outside its boundaries, regardless of nationality or country of residence of the accused. This enforcement is generally limited to such things as war crimes — viewed as a crime against all under such agreements as the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. Obviously, such moves are controversial and subject to intense challenge. For example, one question is whether Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions restricts universal prosecution of crimes to “international conflicts” to the exclusion of torture at CIA facilities or Gitmo. Ironically, Bush always emphasizes the “war on terror” as an international effort.

In addition, since we tortured foreign citizens, those countries would have grounds to issue a warrant as was the case in the arrest of former dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet was arrested in London in 1998 on an order from Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzon who cited Spanish victims in Chile. Regardless of the grounds, any warrant for Bush would put Obama in an even more ignoble position on torture (if that is possible). He would have to fight an effort to enforce human rights law while blocking such enforcement at home.  We would be in the same position as Serbia in both protecting accused war criminals and resisting efforts of other countries in seeking to prosecute them.

In the meantime, Bush’s book tour schedulers may want to avoid those countries which care about human rights and focus on such natural allies as China, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.  He might want to avoid Italy, Spain, and much of Western Europe.

Cheney and Bush have now virtually dared anyone to come after them. They know that Obama has chosen politics over principle. The question is whether the shunning in London will become an actual effort in another country to issue an arrest warrant.

Currently, the debate over torture in the United States is focusing not on the use of torture but whether actual evidence derived from torture should be admissible in federal court. That was the position of Gov. Pataki in our recent debate on Hardball:

Debates of that kind send a message to other countries that we are well past any debate over the use of torture and are now arguing over the use of the fruits of torture. When combined with the Bush book and Cheney interviews, some leaders may view any enforcement of international law as up to other countries. In the absence of such enforcement, they could feel that their countries will be compromised like the United States in turning a blind eye to a war crime or a war criminal.

This brings us back to Boris Johnson. It is rather difficult to say that your country rejects torture when it is feting a former leader who has publicly admitted to ordering torture (and remains proud of it).

Jonathan Turley

100 thoughts on “London Mayor Tells Bush To Stay Out of Londontown — Will International Shunning Become Prosecution?”

  1. Oh darn, Buddha is Lying waited until I logged off to launch her stinking snark attack…too bad I would have liked to slap down those lame lies in person.

    I guess you don’t like to deal with the facts because not one of all the lame phony-bottoms here even tried to address my key point THE PLACE FOR SUCH A TRIAL IS THE HAGUE JUST LIKE IT WAS FOR Radovan Karadžić!

    The entire US government and congress are complicit in the crimes of war we commited in Iraq they are not the appropriate body for such a trial…

    Once again, if any of you were serious you would be addressing your grievances to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, here’s the address.

    And what I smell is a lot worse than a fish, I smell bigotry and NEO-CONS!

  2. BBB,

    That definition would cover our non-uniformed combatants who work for the CIA and OGA as well as private contractors. So if you plan to argue such a disingenuous and inaccurate legal argument, you’re going to have to apply it to our own people who fit the definition you outlined.

    BTW, Koh didn’t limit the president’s ability to kill people, including American citizens whom Obmaa determines is a terrorist, to overseas killing fields. He specifically said, anyone, anywhere. The only limit was a practical one, niceties such as it would not go over well with our allies, but there was no legal reason people couldn’t be killed in the US as well.

  3. Did President Lincoln authorize the extrajudicial killing of U.S. citizens?

    During the civil war, U.S. citizens were tried and convicted by military tribunal and were put to death. This was all done under the authority of President Lincoln. No Article III court was involved.

  4. lottakatz “Is not “Enemy Combatant” a recent and special category of prisoner set up specifically by the Bush administration to deal with our current hostilities and deny captured combatants the protections of prisoner of war status?”

    No. It’s not a new term. I’m unsure of its first usage, but it has been around for over 100 years and continues to have the same meaning.

    “Haven’t we historically tried prisoners of war in military tribunals?”

    Article IV of the Aug. 12, 1949 Geneva Convention defined “prisoner of war” with the following criteria:
    “Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

    1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

    2. Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
    a. That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    b. That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    c. That of carrying arms openly;
    d. That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”

    The term “prisoners of war” has been historically reserved for the captured regularly organized uniformed (identifiable by insignia at a distance) forces of a state. In general, prisoners of war are not tried. It is not a crime for a uniformed soldier to participate in war. Most prisoners of war are simply held until the end of the conflict. When accused of a crime, the prisoners do appear before a military tribunal, not an Article III court.

    Thus, al Qaeda members need not be treated as prisoners of war, and are not guaranteed the protections afforded prisoners of war provided by the Geneva Convention.

    An “unlawful enemy combatant” is one who acts as a hostile aggressor but does not meet the criteria of Article IV. The U.S. Supreme Court in ex parte Quirin (1942) ruled that unlawful enemy combatants could be tried by a military tribunal.

  5. Only a few weeks ago the Obama administration affirmed that waterboarding is torture according to law, not policy. With this affirmation and Bush’s own admission that he ordered torture there is no legal excuse for failing to arrest him on the spot.

    I attended a lecture on the intersection of international and American law given by Koh at the U. of Michigan. He stated in this talk that it is the policy of the Obama administration to use indefinite detention and extrajudicial killing as part of the president’s war powers. I then asked him, given the topic of his talk, why Bush was not under arrest. Koh said he did not know because he didn’t work for the DOJ. He gave a quasi religious, extremely creepy explanation of the Obama judicial policy that is worth getting the tape of the event for, just to hear that.

    Damn right Bush is a war criminal and Obama is one also for failing to uphold our clear rule of law in prosecuting people who ordered, “legally” justified, or committed torture. Glenn Greenwald has a look at what the destruction of the rule of law is doing to our society on his blog today.

  6. Question: Is not “Enemy Combatant” a recent and special category of prisoner set up specifically by the Bush administration to deal with our current hostilities and deny captured combatants the protections of prisoner of war status? Haven’t we historically tried prisoners of war in military tribunals? That struck me in the Professors argument that (that roach) Pataki kept making the point that we historically tried enemy combatants in military tribunals when we did not; we tried prisoners of war. Or have I forgotten all of my American history?

  7. And a good night to you, Blouise (and my fellow bloggers as well). Today started at 5 AM and I hear my pillows calling their soft silky siren song . . . which is pretty impressive considering the cases are cotton.

    Bonne nuit, des gens aimables.

  8. Blouise,

    Yes, it is a broken heart song. It has come in handy over the years.

  9. Blouise,

    I think it’s three things: a bug in the long code for the Warren video, a change to WordPress and how my computer is set up. The short code seems to work fine. It could also be related to my Flash set up in Linux. I don’t use Adobe’s proprietary plug-in and with recent upgrades by Adobe, my plug-in may be causing the malfunction. I’ll get to the bottom of it eventually.

    Just like justice will eventually catch Bush.

  10. Buddha,

    I find it doesn’t work for me if I type in characters underneath the paste which is why it worked on the other thread but not here where you have typed after the paste job … I think

  11. Buddha,

    Saw it on the other thread where it posted perfectly.

    Baby-cakes … that’s a truly broken heart song

  12. Blouise,

    I’m thinking Igor was probably not one to let lax technique slide.

  13. Buddha,

    Watch his hands on the keyboard in the Excitable Boy I posted … pay special attention to the length of his fingers and how he holds his wrists over the keys … training, my man, training

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