Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Tue

07

Apr

2009

Marjorie Cohn - Spain investigates what America should
Tuesday, 07 April 2009 19:30
by Marjorie Cohn

A Spanish court has initiated criminal proceedings against six former officials of the Bush administration. John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes and Douglas Feith may face charges in Spain for authorizing torture at Guantánamo Bay.

If arrest warrants are issued, Spain and any of the other 24 countries that are parties to European extradition conventions could arrest these six men when they travel abroad.

Does Spain have the authority to prosecute Americans for crimes that didn't take place on Spanish soil?

The answer is yes. It's called "universal jurisdiction." Universal jurisdiction is a well-established theory that countries, including the United States, have used for many years to investigate and prosecute foreign nationals for crimes that shock the conscience of the global community. It provides a critical legal tool to hold accountable those who commit crimes against the law of nations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Without universal jurisdiction, many of the most notorious criminals would go free. Countries that have used this as a basis to prosecute the most serious of crimes should be commended for their courage. They help to create a just world in which we all seek to live.

Israel used universal jurisdiction to prosecute, convict and execute Adolph Eichmann for his crimes during the Holocaust, even they had no direct relationship with Israel.

A federal court in Miami recently convicted Chuckie Taylor, son of the former Liberian president, of torture that occurred in Liberia. A U.S. court sentenced Taylor to 97 years in prison in January.

Universal jurisdiction complements, but doesn't supersede, national prosecutions. So if the United States were investigating the Bush officials, other countries would refrain from doing so.

When the United States ratified the Convention Against Torture, it promised to extradite or prosecute those who commit, or are complicit in, the commission of torture.

President Obama, when asked whether he favored criminal investigations of Bush officials, replied, "My view is also that nobody's above the law and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen."


"But," he added, "generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backward." Preoccupied with the economy and two wars, Obama reportedly wants to wait before considering prosecutions that would invariably anger the GOP.

Evidence that Bush officials set a policy that led to the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo continues to emerge.

According to ABC News, Gonzales met with other officials in the White House and authorized torture, including waterboarding.

The Office of Professional Responsibility, which reports to the U.S. attorney general, drafted a report that excoriates Yoo and Bybee for writing the infamous torture memos. Haynes, Addington and Feith participated in decisions that led to torture. The release of additional graphic torture memos by the U.S. Department of Justice is imminent.

It is the responsibility of the United States to investigate allegations of torture. Almost two-thirds of respondents to a USA Today/Gallup Poll favor investigations of the Bush team for torture and warrantless wiretapping. Nearly four in 10 support criminal investigations.

Former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora told Congress, "There are serving U.S. flag-rank officers who maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq - as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into combat - are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo." Providing impunity to those who ordered the torture will be the third recruiting tool.

If the United States refuses to investigate now, it will be more likely that some future administration will repeat this scenario. The use of torture should be purged from our system, much like we eradicated slavery.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law," and co-author of "Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent."
More from this author:
Bush Plans War on Iran (4048 Hits)
by Marjorie Cohn The Sunday Times of London is reporting that the Pentagon has plans for three days of massive air strikes against 1,200...
Erwin Chemerinsky and the Post-9/11 Attack on Academic Freedom (5708 Hits)
by Marjorie Cohn One week after renowned legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky was offered the position of dean of the new law school at the...
Pursue Diplomacy, Not War, With Iran (4639 Hits)
by Marjorie Cohn Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to the United States has prompted an outcry, including protests and tabloid...
Cheney Sounds Out Jordan, Egypt on U.S. Bombing of Iran (5531 Hits)
by Marjorie Cohn My cousin Larry Russell, a travel writer, spent three weeks (May 11 through May 31 of 2007) in Jordan as a guest of the...
Torture Endorsed, Torture Denied (7224 Hits)
by Marjorie Cohn Originally published on the Jurist The April 2004 publication of grotesque photographs of naked Iraqis piled on top of ...
Related Articles:
America the Tyranny (11368 Hits)
Behold and bear witness to what has become of America, in this era of uncertainty and bewilderment, in this time of fear and intimidation, that...
You and What Army? Bush Legions Starting to "Unravel" (12021 Hits)
Is it possible the largest and most advanced military in the history of the universe is ready to bust? According to General Barry McCaffrey (ret.)...
The Dumbing Down of America (15178 Hits)
Something is amiss in the great nation called America. Ominous sirens warning this reality can be heard emanating loudly through invisible winds...
America is No Longer Free (13159 Hits)
by Paul Lehto Habeas corpus -- it's your most fundamental legal right, your right to go to a court and get an order requiring the...
America the Temporary (7684 Hits)
by Mickey Z. Sigmund Freud sez: "America is gigantic; but a gigantic mistake.". America is a nation built upon myth. If you...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (0)add comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top