Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Prosecuting Human Rights Violations — But Only by Foreigners « The Washington Independent
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s subpanel on human rights and the law is holding a hearing today in which the Justice Department, State Department and FBI have sent officials to boast of their impressive record of prosecuting human rights violators. Really. The subcommittee isn’t addressing the U.S.’ record of prosecuting its own officials who have committed human rights violations — such as the torture of detainees held for years without charge or trial, which U.S. courts, including Bush administration military commissions, have now repeatedly found occurred over the past eight years.
Nor is the subcommittee talking about the recent case of Mohammed Jawad, the Afghan who was tortured, and whose treatment was deliberately not investigated despite repeated written pleas from Jawad’s military defense lawyer alerting senior military officials that he believed U.S. officials had committed war crimes.
No, that’s not coming up at this hearing. Instead, Justice Department official Lanny Breuer just testified to how proud he is that the DOJ has for the first time prosecuted a case under the U.S. anti-torture statute, against Roy Belfast, aka “Chuckie” Taylor in Liberia. He didn’t mention that the Justice Department under President George W. Bush maintained that the same statute didn’t apply to U.S. actions in U.S.-run prisons abroad.
Breuer is also apparently very proud that the United States extradited John Demjanjuk — who committed human rights violations on behalf of the Nazis more than 50 years ago.
Breuer also failed to address any of the human rights violations that the Department of Justice approved under Bush, or those that the Obama administration now refuses to prosecute, all in the interest of “looking forward” rather than backwards.
Oddly, neither Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) nor Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), both normally strong human rights advocates, are noting these omissions either. Feingold simply mentioned that “we lack credibility when we within our own government can’t stop violation of human rights on our own borders, yet we’re proclaiming we’re going to prosecute it against everyone that comes here. So it’s an important inconsistency we need to resolve.”
Feingold was referring to cases committed by foreigners smuggling people across the border from Mexico, not to the U.S. citizens in the previous administration who committed and approved human rights violations against prisoners in their own custody.