To Hell With The Constitution, Obama Goes To War – Michael Ratner – How is it that Congress isn’t screaming at President Obama for usurping its power to take this nation to war against Libya?
Law and Disorder National Pacifica Radio Special: Class Warfare – Click Here
Hosts remember one of the great civil rights attorneys, Leonard Weinglass, from his early years as a lawyer in the Air Force to his big cases. Michael Smith shares a great anecdote. Len vigorously defended a black soldier and upset the Air Force brass. They sent him to Iceland for 2 years. Much later in the late fifties, he moved to Newark, NJ, set up a one-man office and represented black people in police abuse cases.
The remarkable and heroic progressive lawyer Len Weinglass died on March 23. Among his cases were the Chicago 8, the Ellsberg case and the Cuban 5. He was our close comrade and will be missed by his friends and all those seeking a better world. – Michael Ratner
A Poem for Len Weinglass by Linda Backiel
“I have everything almost ready for the spring,”
you said. Brush cut, brambles cleared, new trees
planted. A lop-sided smile flit across your silver
stubble beard, a late winter field momentarily lit
by a break in a fleet of migrating clouds.
Co-host Michael Ratner interviews attorney Wolfgang Kaleck, German civil rights attorney and General Secretary for the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. They discuss the effectiveness of Universal Jurisdiction cases and the cases that helped international human rights prosecutions, specifically the cases in Argentina against corporations that profited from dictatorships and human rights abuses and how Argentina can be used as a model to bring cases against other powerful leaders or corporations. Optimism overcomes cynicism. Wolfgang says it’s not easy; it’s work bringing cases against the powerful of the world.
Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck:
- I have the privilege to work on behalf of Germans and Argentinian victims of the Dirty War between 1976 and 1983 in Argentina.
- The Argentinian cases and the Chilean cases were the most important phase in universal jurisdiction.
- We filed cases in Germany, Italy and France.
- The idea to file Argentinian and Chilean cases in European courts was not to try Argentinians and Chileans in Europe but to impose accountability in Chile and Argentina.
- That’s what people call the Pinochet Effect.
- In 2005 and 2006 the amnesty laws were abolished. If you go to Buenos Aries now you will observe military junta tribes from Monday to Friday and you will see police officers, military leaders, torturers, guards.
- At this point, special prosecutors and parts of the civil society are demanding an investigation and prosecution into crimes committed by corporations who aided and abetted the dictatorship, or who profited from the dictatorship.
- The history in Argentina, 30,000 people disappeared, 100,000 were tortured.
- The human rights movement in Argentina was so strong that they maintained a certain presence, a certain public attention.
- For us, Argentina is like the blueprint. They inspired the human rights movement, and not only in Europe.
- I filed a case at Mercy Dispense because in Buenos Aires, 15 trade unionists were disappeared. We filed the criminal case in Germany against a German-Argentinian manager who had dual citizenship which allowed us to bring the case in Germany. Then we filed a case in the US, an alien tort claims which is still pending. We filed a case in Argentina which is still pending.
- One line is to blame the torturers and the torturer leaders, we want to talk about why these human rights violations have been committed. Why the Argentinian military took the decision to oppress their populations and our explanation is that they wanted to install a political and economic system which needed the extermination of the trade unionists.
- Actually to demand accountability and do these investigations is trauma work. A society that hasn’t dealt with its past will have some problems in the present. Argentina is worth studying as an example.
- Universal jurisdiction is showing its limits. So far it was very difficult to bring cases against the powerful of the world.
- The suspicion that the criminal justice system is just another tool of the powerful against the powerless,
- We have to try to bring cases against the powerful, Russia, China, the US, or Sri Lanka or Israel, who all undertake actions to avoid prosecution.
- We are very optimistic that some investigation will be carried out in Spain but some people are over-pessimistic, because even now, we have achieved that several former US officials, or from the CIA or from the Army, or politicians can’t travel anymore, without running the risk to be arrested.
- We achieved something. I’m also not satisfied by it but still its more than we thought possible.
- President Bush wanted to go to Switzerland.
- It’s always an argument against those cynical people who say nothing is possible. Yes, something is possible. We do have to struggle to maintain this, the whole international criminal justice system is at stake.
Guest – Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck, a German civil rights attorney. He is also the General Secretary for the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. On November 14, 2006, Kaleck sought criminal prosecution charges in German court against a number of US officials and military personnel in connection with alleged human rights abuses at the prison facilities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay on behalf of eleven plaintiffs. Approximately 30 human rights activists and organizations participated as co-plaintiffs.