Who Will Enforce the Laws Against Torture?

Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty(rafflaw)-Guest Blogger

We have discussed the enforcement of torture laws many times here on Prof. Turley’s blog and the policy of the Obama Administration to “look forward” and not go after the Bush Administration for its admitted torture of detainees.  With that in mind, it was interesting to read this week that 4 victims of torture under the hands of the Bush Administration have turned to the United Nations Committee against Torture in a last effort to get justice. “Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz—they are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and numerous prisons and CIA “black sites” around the world. Between them, they have been beaten, hung from walls or ceilings, deprived of sleep, food and water, and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in U.S. custody. None was charged with a crime, two were detained while still minors, and one of them remains at Guantánamo.

This week, in a complaint filed with the United Nations Committee against Torture, they are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes, openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face any legal action?”  Truthout   

The complaint was brought to the United Nations in response to the Canadian government’s refusal to arrest former President George W. Bush last year when he visited British Columbia.  The idea that victims of CIA and United States Military torture techniques that are illegal in the United States have to resort to filing a complaint with the United Nations is sad.  Our Judiciary and our Department of Justice have collectively turned a blind eye to the admitted instances of torture, purportedly for the purpose of allegedly protecting national security and avoiding the political fall-out an investigation would bring.

“The country in question is Canada, visited last year by former U.S. President George W. Bush during a paid speaking engagement in Surrey, British Columbia. Bush’s visit drew hundreds in protest, calling for his arrest, and it also provided bin Attash, el-Hajj, Tumani and Kurnaz the opportunity to call on the Canadian government to uphold its legal obligation under the U.N. Convention against Torture, and conduct a criminal investigation against Bush while he was on Canadian soil.

To this end, the four men, submitted a 69-page draft indictment that CCR and CCIJ had presented to Canada’s attorney general ahead of Bush’s arrival in support of their private prosecution. The submission included thousands of pages of evidence against Bush consisting of extensive reports and investigations conducted by multiple U.S. agencies and the U.N. The evidence is overwhelming, not to mention the fact that Bush has admitted, even, boasted of his crimes, saying “damn right” when asked if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee – a recognized act of torture.”  Truthout

The Truthout article is a fervent plea and demand that the United Nations should enforce its own laws and call upon all countries to enforce the U.N. Convention against Torture.  The United Nations has a unique ability to pressure its signing members to enforce the laws that the signers of the anti-torture measures have agreed to follow and enforce.  When an individual country, for whatever reason, is unable to or unwilling to investigate and prosecute violations of the torture restrictions, the United Nations can assist in obtaining justice for the victims by reminding other member countries that if any individual who has admitted to torture, they have a duty to prosecute those individuals when they enter their respective countries.

What do you think will happen to the complaint filed by the four victims with the United Nations?  Can the United Nations preserve its honor if it doesn’t follow-up on this complaint and urge any signing country to enforce it?  I truly don’t know what the United Nations can do if the individual countries refuse to honor their agreements.  This horrific history of torture could be corrected after the fact if the United States Department of Justice would do their job and if President Obama would just get out-of-the-way and allow the AG to investigate any and all instances of torture that have not escaped via the statute of limitations.

If we cannot or will not investigate any and all alleged law breakers because of their place in the government or because of their political persuasion, why do we have laws outlawing torture at all?  What will stop current and future bad actors from engaging in torture if the former President and Vice President of the United State allowed it and encouraged it and stand impervious to prosecution?  How do we prevent a political civil war if any administration tries to enforce the law against torture against its predecessors?

The rule of law stands tarnished, if not damaged, by the Obama Administration’s refusal to enforce the laws against torture.  Will President Obama’s stance on enforcing the illegal torture program “evolve” now that he has survived the reelection?  What do you think?

Additional Source: U.N. Convention against Torture

50 thoughts on “Who Will Enforce the Laws Against Torture?

  1. My Pal took me to a clinic to pick up some medicine he needed for his eyesight, or lack there of. We sat in this waiting room with a few other patients and they had this television going with some show on called Fox News. Then we went to the airport waiting room waiting for unlce billy to get off a plane and had to watch some guy named Rush Limbaugh. Pure torure. Is there no law against this kind of thing?

  2. Torture laws??? They are way in the back window somewhere.
    Laws to kill people have replaced them… You see torture never did work and still doesn’t work… But killing, well it is just great now.

    No explanations to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

    As far as Canada is concerned, their government wouldn’t do anything but it sounds like Cheney is scared to visit Canada….


  3. John McCain, born in Panama, was eligible to be president because he was born on a US military base. While this would imply that the US is an empire — rather than a republic — it seems more plausible than attempts to exclude Barry Goldwater from office because he was born in Arizona before it was a state.

    But what I wonder about, in terms of the official position of the US government, relates more to Guantanamo: what is the relation of these issues to, for example, John Yoo’s suggestion that the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility — outside US territory — in order to evade the Geneva Conventions?

    How is waterboarding clearly torture during the Spanish Inquisition, but not today because of a memo?

  4. To actually do anything to bring Bush and Cheney to justice for not following our laws against torture sounds like an untouchable political hot potato that even the current president to handle. Perhaps the only way it could be achieved to minutely lessen the inevitable backlash would be to pull a fast one. That is, no sooner are Bush and Cheney found guilty (as surely they must be), than the president pardons them both. However, with so much concern by congressional members about their own and their party’s re-election futures, I feel sure politicians on the Left would be scared spitless that the whole brouhaha would repeatedly come back to haunt them. After all, how could anyone who is supposed to be a “good American” do anything to tarnish our self-aggrandizing, jingoistic image of ourselves as the “world’s greatest power,” etc.

  5. Even though I was glad to see the President re-elected, this was one area in which I found his performance in the prior four years abyssmal. I would have thought that as a Black man, given the history of slavery, he would be amienable to putting the Bush administration on trial, but he really disappointed me and most of my friends with his “looking forward, not back”. Would that also be his view of the holocaust? How about the civil rights protests? Should we only look forward and not look back? We MUST Hold the Bush administration to account for their blatant disregard for the establishment of torture, or lose forever the tenuious hold we have of ANY moral imperitive.

  6. “Will President Obama’s stance on enforcing the illegal torture program “evolve” now that he has survived the reelection? What do you think?”

    One would hope, but then again, all evidence from his first term indicates otherwise.

    Great follow up, raff. We need to have this iron kept hot so to speak. The wound allowing domestic war criminals to go free has created both at home and internationally will never heal until it is cleaned and (ad)dressed. And it will never be addressed if those in power are allowed to quietly sweep it away without questions.

  7. It is 42 years since. How we need her now.

    The sixties were definitely ended. And we are left with this “thing”.

    Thanks for bringing it up Rafflaw. Did you all note that four Nobel Peace Prize winners, not including Obama, came out for Bradley Manning and us, ie our right to know WTF is happening in our names.

    Is there a law against hanging former Pres n Veeps in effigy? Let’s start with that as a folk demo, anywhere we can get 10 honest people together. Let’s see how often they tase us before it gets on the news.

    Remember Nixon, he left in what? 1973. Got a pardon from Ford. He was guilty of lots, but not so much Watergate, that was a scam. Now of course that was for US law violations. Is torture a crime in the USA. Yeah, sure. But odd that the President gets to decide who gets investigated and prosecuted. Don’t we have grand jurys anymore.

    With all our reservations, our Congressional approval is as binding as Romney’s campaign promises. Try cashing them in.

  8. “If we cannot or will not investigate any and all alleged law breakers because of their place in…”

    Does this include illegal aliens or just those that you deem law breakers?

  9. I feel like that the number of honest people in our top echelon can be counted on four hands. Now the odd thing is that these bought crooks THINK that they are honest and doing the right thing.

    Just like the guy who wants JJJr’s seat in Chicago. He believes. Do we? nuh uh, not in anybody right now. They’ve got to prove that we did right in voting for them.

    Obama said in effect: “Force me” when we asked for what he promised us. Well, guess we’ll have to do it.

    I would not take any odds that Obummer will do a thing. It is just not productive in his eyes. Our honor is so stained internationally that one more smear won’t make a difference, but will domestically. Obummer? Yeah, that is for the man, not the office.

  10. Beverliee,
    I am talking about all law breakers, including illegal aliens. However, I would suggest that going after those that tortured under our name are a little higher on the priority list. Then, when you discuss illegal aliens, are you ready to put corporate officers in jail for knowingly hiring illegal aliens? They are people according to the Supreme Court so people should go to jail when corporations break the law.

  11. Exceptional nations have the halo over thier heads and can break laws of humanity in order to stop a competing tyranny. President Hindenburg had to do something when the communists allegedly burned down their Parliament building, the Reichstag. He issued the Reichstag Fire Decree which set aside human rights laws and allowed his government to go after the communists without any due process of law. The slippery slope resulted in the greatest genocide conceivable. This is the parallel for the trek taken by Bushie and Cheney with the Patriot Act after the so called terrorists took down the Twin Towers and hit the Pentagon. The 1933 Parallel is something that we need to discuss and not put in our past. We Americans think that we are exceptional. We were so exceptional that we prosecuted the germans at the Nuremburg Trials after WWII. We set the standards for human rights prosecutions. So now there is room for someone to come after Bush and Cheney and their waterboarders.

  12. Is it possible to bring a citizen’s suit against these torturers for a federal law violation? Must DoJ approve it? The feds have reached out many times in the name of citizens. Why can they not now. Is that Obama’s call?
    Surely there must be statutes describing now a treaty will be enforced.

  13. The Hermann Goring wikipedia section has an account of the Reichstag Fire and Goring’s role. Perhaps there are some 1933 Parallels here with Nine Eleven as well.

    Wiki: The Reichstag fire occurred on the night of 27 February 1933. Göring was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Marinus van der Lubbe—a communist radical—was arrested and claimed sole responsibility for the fire. Göring immediately called for a crackdown on communists.[37]

    The Nazis took advantage of the fire to advance their own political aims. The Reichstag Fire Decree, passed the next day on Hitler’s urging, suspended basic rights and allowed detention without trial. Activities of the German Communist Party were suppressed, and some 4,000 communist party members were arrested.[38] Göring demanded that the detainees should be shot, but Rudolf Diels, head of the Prussian political police, ignored the order.[39] Researchers, including William L. Shirer and Alan Bullock, are of the opinion that the NSDAP itself was responsible for starting the fire.[40][41]

    At the Nuremberg Trials, General Franz Halder testified that Göring admitted responsibility for starting the fire. He said that at a luncheon held on Hitler’s birthday in 1942, Göring said, “The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!”[42] In his own Nuremberg testimony, Göring denied this story.[43]

  14. Has either Bush or Cheney left the country since leaing office?

    If not, then there must be the message must be getting through.

  15. Corrections:
    Has either Bush or Cheney left the country since leaving office?

    If not, then the message must be getting through to them.

  16. What do these guys fly in these days? Air Force Three and Four? Do they have SS coverage still?

    Anybody know where you can buy Stingers these days. Afghanistan black market? Too far. Maybe the Talis got some leftovers in the Swat Valley, Pakistan.
    I was thinking of one for drone defense. LOL.

    This is a horse which will never get out of the starting gate, much less make the homestretch.

    Thanks again Raff for getting us riled. So needed after the nullity of Petraeus and Benghazi.

    Where were the Congressional investigations of Iraq of CIA lies then????????

    Good night all. Don’t stay up too long. Stimulating place, in its peculiar way.

  17. Bud, George and Laura Bush spend quite a bit of time in Africa working on a variety of health care projects that they are sponsoring.

  18. Raff,

    Excellent article…. Now it’s time for bush to be toasted…… Not on a speaking circuit but in a courtroom….. And if Obama won’t then he should be charged with conspiracy…… We know that wont happen…. But…. One can hope…..

    Excellent post gene….

  19. Addendum….. Raft… When the sct hacked the 4th when taking Noriega hostage…..after he was no longer useful to e US or CIA….

  20. The manner in which Obama handled the Petraeus matter indicates, to me at least, that he will continue to give those who hold or held powerful positions a pass whenever possible.

    I have no idea why he needed twenty-four hours to consider accepting the resignation of the admitted adulterer who hid his affair in violation of his own oath when accepting the position as CIA Director.

    Decisive indecisiveness often results in unreliability and, eventually, treachery.

    Obama seems to sympathize with such characters.

    I wonder why.

  21. If I wasn’t clear enough … I don’t expect him to do anything about the torturers and, the rest will follow their leader.

  22. Obama is Blackbush, and does not want anyone to look back OR forward at his own human rights violations record and policies.

    And he is proud of how the NPR crowd gives him a pass and shuts down any attempts to question his past..or even just know what it is.

    Maybe an NPR/O supporter can tell us how O was able to travel to Pakistan
    whenever it was illegal to do so back in 1981 since the U.S. government had declared it to be a terrorist nation.

    HINT: O’s first employer after college was a CIA front – International Business Consulting.

  23. Why do people throw all this blame on Petraeus for having a little trist with that very good looking jouranlist/biographer. He would have to be bent not to accept an invitation into bed from her. In France he would have received a medal.

  24. Thank you rafflaw [in your response to Zorensen] –
    the courts confirmed that Gitmo is US soil and under our laws.

    I have been asking what laws apply on all US military bases around the world, and whatever laws apply to them, also must apply to Gitmo. It was always my understanding in years past that US laws apply on military bases around the world.

    I have been horrified by the unconstitutional, illegal, unethical, immoral, dishonorable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq [AUMF to give a president some authority to order the military around does not constitute a congressional declaration of war under the terms of the US Constitution], and when I heard about torture and the Bushista regime’s orders to do torture based on twisted logic by lawyers (no less!), I was not only horrified, but embarrassed and ashamed of having to call myself an American.

    Adding insult to injury were the Patriot Act, MCA ’06, FISA fiasco ’08, the ‘office of faith-based initiatives’ run out of the White house, all of which Congress and Obama extended, and Obama and Congress added MCA ’09, and adding more war crimes (IMHO), gave the orders for drone bombing in countries where we have no business being, and that started less than a week after Obama took the oath of office.

    I didn’t support any of the “frontrunner” candidates for the ’08 election cycle because none, including Obama, favored either impeachment or investigation into the lies and war crimes as early as July ’07.
    A little over a week later, John Nicholas and Bruce Fein were interviewed by Bill Moyers, and both spoke out in favor of impeachment of both Dumbya and Dickie:
    Impeachment and war crimes trials were most on my mind at the time, and I was determined to support the Democratic candidate who would speak out in favor of either. I’ve been depressed about the lack of upholding laws and treaties since Dumbya was given his office by SCOTUS in December 2000.

    Obama has acted more like a Republican than a Democrat for four+ years. He’s gone after whistleblowers like they’re criminals, not people who have done us a favor with news of wrongdoing. That’s totally unethical.

    I’ve always hoped someone from a foreign country would hold Bush, Cheney, and their lying war criminal cohorts accountable, or do something sensible like kick the US out of the UN or censure the US in meaningful ways to force the hands of our elected “leaders.” It’s patently obvious that our elected politicians are cowards through and through and will never do so…, perhaps because they allowed the childish spoiled brat to have his way and gave him the money and the unconstitutional “laws” to let him carry out these horrors without reining him in…, and that makes them culpable as lying war criminals so they can also be held accountable…, as well as the US military. “I was only following orders” is not, as the Judgment of Nuremberg concluded, a just defense for committing war crimes.

    I’m still ashamed and embarrassed to call my self an American because our politicians have allowed the lying war criminals to walk free as though they have done nothing wrong.

  25. Here’s a slightly different take on things.

    A head of state condones torture and there is outrage. Good, bad, or indifferent. It affects fifty or a hundred or more victims. Much is discussed on a world wide court of opinion. That is fine. But consider this…

    How can it be then that when two heads of state decide to attack the other they initiate events that lead to 100,000 dead and three times that wounded and this gets less attention? The focus becomes whether a waterboarding constitutes torture. But, “laws of war”, if their really is such a concept, says that it is ok to drop a B-52’s worth of 200 lb JDAMs on a column of people who are wearing a uniform of the other guy’s army.

    I would say the waterboarding is “torture” but being burned to death from an airstrike is “legal”? How is the latter not torture?

    Thus is the insantity of war. I still believe in fighting for our freedom if tyrants want to take away our liberty, but there should hopefully be a time where ordinary people, when they see that some old men in high places want to attack each other using 18 year olds as expendable pawns, these ordinary people tell them where to go and both sides refuse to take up arms.

  26. I understand the focus on bush and Cheney. The topic is torture.

    The current administration has assassinated an individual in a sovereign nation, orchestrated the killing of an American abroad, and continued drone attacks that claim human lives as collateral damage. How is he not held to the same standard? Where are the human rights groups?

    Btw, in confirmation hearings Eric holder refused to state that the administration would not resort to torture if warranted by circumstance.

  27. The rule of law stands tarnished, if not damaged, by the [Bush II and] Obama Administration’s refusal to enforce the laws against torture.

    This is the stuff degenerating empires are made of.

    Will President Obama’s stance on enforcing the illegal torture program “evolve” now that he has survived the reelection? What do you think?

    Generally the momemtum is too strong to overcome, so it is not likely that a return to America from the depths of Amurka is likely.

    We may have reached the peak of recovery by mere verbal denouncement of torture.

  28. Darren,
    I agree with your frustration. When Bush attacked Iraq, they dd so under the infamous AUMF, so Congress was also duped. But making a decision to go to war on bogus intelligence does not make torture any less onerous.

  29. Darren Smith, hear hear. That will happen, if at all, only after one of the two following things precedes it, in my uneducated opinion:

    (a) Either we have three generations of protection of children’s “life interests”; or

    (b) We simply give up “civilization” and return to maternalist society forms.

    Oh well, let’s see, which is more unlikely…

  30. Bill McWilliams,

    “HINT: O’s first employer after college was a CIA front – International Business Consulting.”

    Holy skit!

    “We have how had it confirmed officially that the nation’s reins rest in the hands of H.W. Bush and the CIA. This morning……”

    You’ve seen the “Boys in Brazil” film? Obama is one of them. The successful one.

    The question remains, is he a Manchurian Candidate or just a figurehead with mormal psyche?

  31. Mr. Turley….

    Are you aware of the torture suits against Bush and Rumsfeld by Amerikan soldiers who reported on gun running by the amerikan government in iraq?

    The Bivens suit against Rumsfeld(and Bush) in the Case of VANCE V. RUMSFELD…as one of the foremost constitutional lawyers in this country…..what is your analysis of a Bivens case that would be filed against top officials?????


  32. I just got off the train from Remulak. Who is the guy in the photo with the big smile? Does he have something to do with the Scientology group which is referred to in another aricle above? And what is up with the couple in the two bathtubs in the back yard in that Viagra commercial that is shown on tv here? Is that how humanoids procreate?

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