International Justice Group Takes Aim at Bush Officials
The International Center for Transitional Justice usually focuses on bringing to light and holding perpetrators accountable for such heinous crimes as genocide, mass murder and systematic torture, often in far-off war-torn countries with dismal human rights records.
So it’s significant that today they’ve released a report calling on the United States to follow its legal obligation to prosecute the leaders in the U.S. government responsible for the “torture, cruel and inhuman treatment” of detainees during its own “war on terror.”
“Investigations and prosecutions should focus on the engineers of official policies that were the basis of illegal abuses, to send a clear signal that the absolute prohibition of torture and the ban on cruel and inhuman treatment will be respected by the United States,” the report said, adding that if the U.S. government fails to initiate prosecutions, then other countries will take up the cause. Italy, for example, recently convicted 23 Americans for their involvement in “extraordinary renditions.”
“Failing to hold accountable the architects and overseers of a policy of abuse undermines the U.S. justice system and the fundamental idea that law provides a check on power,” Alex Boraine, acting president of ICTJ, said in a statement today. “As we have seen in countless examples around the world, abuse of power by allowing torture and cruel treatment can tear down what the law and democracy have built.”
While there’s support among many Democrats for some sort of accountability, whether through criminal prosecutions or an independent truth commission, Republicans vehemently resist any suggestion that the Bush administration even did anything wrong.
Since Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Friday that the Justice Department would try the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators in a U.S. federal court in New York, some Republicans have denounced the move as an illegitimate attempt to put the Bush administration, rather than the terrorists, on trial.
“The government is going to try to put Khalid Sheik Mohammed on trial. Defense lawyers will try and put the government on trial,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani told Fox News.
Tom Ridge, head of the Department of Homeland Security during the Bush administration, added that any effort to use the 9/11 trial to “delve into a fishing expedition” to go after Bush officials is “wrong and unconscionable.”
Meanwhile, in The Wall Street Journal today, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo — a potential target of any future criminal prosecution of Bush officials — attacked the decision to try the 9/11 detainees in federal court as a dangerous mistake. “The treatment of the 9/11 attacks as a criminal matter rather than as an act of war will cripple American efforts to fight terrorism,” Yoo wrote. “It is in effect a declaration that this nation is no longer at war.”