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