(CNSNews.com) – The disclosure that former President Bush personally approved the “waterboarding” of al-Qaeda terrorist Khalid Sheik Mohammed is expected to bring calls for torture prosecutions – both in the U.S. and at the United Nations.
Americans can expect to hear more about the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT), a U.S.-ratified treaty that calls for criminal prosecutions for “complicity or participation in torture.”
Bush’s acknowledgment that he endorsed the interrogation method, which simulates drowning, to obtain information from terrorists appears in his memoir, “Decision Points,” which went on sale Tuesday. In an appearance in
Media reports on Bush’s published comments brought condemnation from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), an umbrella organization comprising more than 290 religious groups in the
“Former President Bush has admitted to ordering the use of torture. In doing so he has violated
Asked Monday whether NRCAT supports calls for criminal prosecutions, Killmer replied that a commission of inquiry was its first priority.
“NRCAT is also supportive of an investigation for criminal culpability,” he added. “No-one is above the law and possible violations should be investigated.”
Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) executive director Douglas Johnson also issued a statement following reports of Bush’s comments, saying, “This cavalier attitude by the president who authorized torture in violation of U.S. and international law not only damages our nation’s credibility throughout the world, but also discourages global cooperation to combat terrorism.”
The CVT renewed earlier calls for an independent and non-partisan commission to examine and report on post-9/11 torture and abuse of prisoners.
“Such a commission should be adequately funded and given subpoena power and a mandate to fully examine the facts and circumstances of such abuses and to recommend measures to prevent future abuses,” Johnson added.
Asked whether those measures should include criminal prosecutions, CVT spokesman Brad Robideau replied Tuesday, “It would be presumptuous to assume what type of recommendations an independent, nonpartisan commission investigating the use of torture after 9/11 might make.”
Advice from Cuba, Iran
Reports on Bush’s comments appeared just ahead of the first U.N. Human Rights Council review of the human rights record of the
Addressing the panel of senior State Department officials present,
“Put on trial the perpetrators of torture, extrajudicial executions and other serious violations of human rights committed in
Hours after they and representatives of other states including
“Waterboarding is forbidden,” replied State Department legal advisor Harold Hongju Koh. “This president of the
Koh was then asked whether the
He recalled that Attorney General Eric Holder in 2009 had referred the issue of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques to veteran special prosecutor John Durham of
“Those investigations are ongoing,” Koh continued. “The question is not whether they would consider it – those discussions are going on right now.”
Holder in his Aug. 2009 announcement said
No timetable was announced back then, although Holder in a speech last June said that
Although Holder in his announcement referred to federal law, Koh in
He said the administration’s stance was not a policy choice but a legal obligation, noting that the administration “defines waterboarding as torture as a matter of law under the Convention Against Torture.”
The CAT, which the
“Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature,” it reads.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has an expert – in U.N. jargon, “special rapporteur” – on torture, and last week the post changed hands.
The incoming rapporteur, Juan Mendez from
A November 2009 ICTJ briefing note on the issue argues that it is not sufficient to hold accountable “only those who carried out orders or whose actions went beyond the stated government policy,” and states that “prosecutions should focus on policy-makers and high-level officials.”
“It stands as an incredibly distorted and hypocritical position for the
In his new U.N. role, Mendez succeeds Austrian lawyer Manfred Nowak, who on the day Obama took office called for Bush and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be prosecuted for alleged abuses at
As he left his U.N. post last week, Nowak was asked by
“I have a certain understanding that President Obama did not want immediately to really get into such a conflict with the Republicans and the former government,” Nowak replied.
“But a thorough investigation would be the least that is required from a new president who really campaigned for change and a new ethical behavior in international relations and toward people under his jurisdiction.”
Nowak reiterated the view that “the Obama administration is under an international obligation to deal with the past.”