Balkinization  

Monday, June 21, 2004

A Quick Recap on Torture

JB

for those of you who were napping, from the Washington Post editorial page:

What might lead us to describe Mr. Rumsfeld or some other "senior civilian or military official" as "ordering or authorizing or permitting" torture or violation of international treaties and U.S. law? We could start with Mr. Rumsfeld's own admission during the same news conference that he had personally approved the detention of several prisoners in Iraq without registering them with the International Committee of the Red Cross. This creation of "ghost prisoners" was described by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who investigated abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, as "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine and in violation of international law." Failure to promptly register detainees with the Red Cross is an unambiguous breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention; Mr. Rumsfeld said that he approved such action on several occasions, at the request of another senior official, CIA Director George J. Tenet.

Did senior officials order torture? We know of two relevant cases so far. One was Mr. Rumsfeld's December 2002 authorization of the use of techniques including hooding, nudity, stress positions, "fear of dogs" and physical contact with prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay base. A second was the distribution in September 2003 by the office of the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, of an interrogation policy that included these techniques as well as others, among them sleep and dietary manipulation. In both cases lawyers inside the military objected that the policies would lead to violations of international law, including the convention banning torture. Both were eventually modified, but not before they were used for the handling of prisoners. In the case of the Abu Ghraib prison, the policy apparently remained in effect for months.

Did senior officials "permit" torture? A Pentagon-led task force concluded in March 2003, with the support of the Justice Department, that the president was authorized to order torture as part of his war-making powers and that those who followed his orders could be immunized from punishment. Dictators who wish to justify torture, and those who would mistreat Americans, have no need to read our editorials: They can download from the Internet the 50-page legal brief issued by Mr. Rumsfeld's chief counsel.


Frankly, we're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. But this is pretty bad all by itself. It's worth considering whether there is already enough evidence to prosecute any top Bush Administration officials for war crimes, that is, if we had happened to be on the losing side of a conflict.

I'm also sure the Administration is breathing a sigh of relief that it repudiated the country's signature on the International Criminal Court on May 6, 2002. Hmmm, wasn't that just as the invasion was being planned?



Comments:

Why do we need the International Criminal Court to enforce these crimes? Aren't the acts of these "senior government officials" also crimes under a variety of federal statutes?

It's time for Ashcroft to appoint a special prosecutor (as he did in the Plame case) to investigate these crimes.

Yeah, right. I can see Ashcroft giggling already.

--Basharov
 

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