Talking Points: John Carroll Feb 11, 2007 Michael Ratner
From Guantanamo to Berlin: Protecting Human Rights After 9/11
- High administration officials including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Vice President Cheney, the President and others should be investigated for the commission of war crimes and other human rights violations. These crimes include torture, arbitrary detentions and dis
- The torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib was not a case of a few bad apples. It represented the policy and practice of the Bush Administration. Torture and coercive interrogations were carried out at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, in other prisons in Iraq and at CIA secret
- There is a clear paper trial of official memoranda, actions and victims that implicate high level officials in the practice of torture. Lawyers in the Department of Justice, particularly John Yoo as well as Jay Bybee were instrumental in supplying the legal justification for torture.
- The case of Mahar Arar, a Center for Constitutional Rights client, is emblematic of the torture and disappearance practices of this administration. Mr. Arar is the Canadian citizen taken from JFK airport by the administration and sent to Syria as part of the practice called extraordinary rendition. He was sent by the Bush administration knowing he would be tortured and he was. Recently the Canadian government settled with Mr. Arar for 9 million dollars, said it was a mistake and that Mr. Arar was completely innocent. Despite this the U.S. has kept Mr. Arar on its terrorist watch list. Mr. Arar was one of the lucky ones—he is a free man whose story can be told. Perhaps, hundreds of others are not.
- Guantanamo, the notorious U.S. off shore penal colony remains open and over 350 men are still incarcerated. It has been over 5 years since the Center for Constitutional Rights took on the first of these cases. We now coordinate 600 lawyer representing Guantanamo detainees. None of the detainees have been charged with a crime or had any kind of trial in a court. Many of them have been subjected to coercive interrogations that include conduct that rises to the level of The techniques used were specifically authorized by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and included dogs, stripping, hooding, stress positions, sleep deprivation, denial of religious items e.g. the Koran, and sexual humiliation.
- Guantanamo remains despite the fact that twice the Supreme Court has ruled the detainees have the right to go to court and test their detentions by using the writ of habeas corpus. Twice, Republican congresses have attempted to override this right and this last effort will soon reach the Supreme Court again. The right to habeas corpus is embodied in the Magna Carta of 1215 and Congress has now abolished it for non-citizens.
- The President still insists that he has the right to kidnap anyone from anywhere in the world and hold them in secret CIA dark sites or render them to other countries. In both situations the detainees can be and are tortured. Water boarding a classic torture is one of the torture techniques employed.
- To date there has been no investigation up the chain of command for what can only be called the ”torture program.” This was not a policy of a “few bad apples.” But is the policy and practice of the Bush administration. All of the investigations and prosecutions have looked down the chain of command-none have investigated those who set the policy and practice.
- In the Military Commission Act that the President signed in October 2006 administration officials were provided with a retroactive amnesty for war crimes and torture. This makes accountability for these crimes in the U.S, impossible.
- In these circumstances, these crimes only can be investigated and prosecuted in a country where universal jurisdiction is applicable. Torture and War Crimes are considered to be crimes so heinous that their perpetrators can be brought to justice any where in the world. This is why the Center for Constitutional Rights brought a criminal case in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld and others.
- The consequences of the Bush administrations actions in the so-called war on terror are dire and not only for our many clients and other subjected to torture and disappearances. The U.S. at one time stood for human rights; it does no longer. The U.S. as the most powerful country in the world sets the example and it is no longer a positive one. The U.S. has now given a license to any two-bit dictatorship to do what it has done: torture and disappear people.
- Another serious consequence of the administration ‘s belief that it need not obey laws forbidding torture or other practices in the ”war on terror” is an end to the checks and balances system so fundamental to our democracy. Our constitution insisted on a President with limited power. Calling that into question puts us on the road to tyranny.