A European human rights lawyer has demanded that our former dictator president and other high-ranking members of his administration be brought to the Hague and forced to stand trial for human rights violations and abuses.
In an interview with the German public television network ZDF, Austrian human rights lawyer Manfred Nowak, UN special rapporteur on torture, said that numerous cases of torture ordered by U.S. officials and perpetrated by U.S. authorities are well documented.
“We possess all the evidence which proves that the torture methods used in interrogation by the U.S. government were explicitly ordered by former U.S. defence minister Donald Rumsfeld,” Nowak told ZDF. “Obviously, these orders were given with the highest U.S. authorities’ knowledge.”
“George W. Bush is without doubt responsible for crimes such as torture,” says Dietmar Herz, professor of political science at the university of Erfurt, 235 km southwest of Berlin.
“According to the U.S. constitution, the U.S. president is responsible for all actions carried out by the executive,” Herz told IPS. “Therefore, George W. Bush is responsible for the torture methods used by U.S. authorities, such as waterboarding.”
Their crimes are well known. It is well documented by now that specific acts of torture, such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, “stress positions”, sexual degredation, and myriad other barbaric acts were authorized by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and authorized by George W. Bush. And since ultimate responsibility for acts committed in the name of the executive lies with the chief executive (in other words, the Captain is responsible for the conduct of his crew), Bush is the man who must answer for these crimes.
Not that that should stop anyone from bringing the rest up on charges. They knew what they were doing, and they knew it was wrong. Cheney and Rumsfeld are just as culpable in this as Bush is. They should stand trial right alongside him and, if possible, share a prison cell with him, where they can spend the rest of their days repeating their ridiculous defense that torture isn’t torture because they said it isn’t.
So, will it happen? Will these cretins finally have to account for their crimes? Will there truly be justice for these moral midgets? Doubtful. While the U.N. talks a good game vis-a-vis human rights and war crimes, its record on actually prosecuting them is spotty. So far, only heads of state from failed states, weakened southeastern European states, or the southern hemisphere have been brought to trial. No leader of a truly powerful country has ever had to stand before the court and defend himself.
International justice against crimes against humanity began in 1945, with the Nuremberg trials against Nazi criminals, says Kaleck. Leading prosecutor Robert Jackson said at the opening of the trials in October 1945 that “we are able to do away with…tyranny and violence and aggression by those in power against the rights of (the) people…only when we make all men answerable to the law.”
But since then this promise has been fulfilled only in exceptional cases, Kaleck said.
“Crimes against humanity have been repeatedly committed ever since, but very few people have been brought before international courts for these crimes,” he said, adding that this impunity is particularly obvious for leaders of the Allied countries (such as the U.S., France and Britain), who had organised the Nuremberg trials.
Nobody was ever judged for crimes against humanity committed in Algeria by France, in Vietnam and Latin America by the U.S., in Afghanistan by the Soviet Union and in Chechnya by Russia.
Only in the 1990s, after the Yugoslav wars of secession, the Rwanda genocide, and civil wars in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone were state criminals captured, judged and convicted.
“The creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002 in The Hague in the Netherlands marks a turning point in the prosecution of state officials accused of crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity or of war,” Kaleck added.
But prosecution for crimes of war or for crimes against humanity continues to be highly selective. So far, only perpetrators from weak or failed states from south-eastern Europe, or from the south, especially Africa, have been brought to court. In a case such as that of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, Britain acted as an accomplice to protect him.
I don’t expect this to change any time soon. Bush still has legions of sycophants willing to defend him and his actions, right or wrong. And given his nearly legendary narrow-minded lack of interest in foreign travel, I doubt he’ll be leaving the country anytime soon. So unless President Obama shows the courage to extradite him to the War Crimes court, there will be no justice. And Bush will continue to be a colossal embarrassment for the United States for years to come.