Saturday, May 3, 2008

WHY THE BUSH MOB WANTS TO BE CAREFUL TRAVELING ABROAD AFTER THE ELECTION

PHILLIPE SANDS, VANITY FAIR The minimum rights of detainees guaranteed by Geneva and the torture convention can never be overridden by claims of security or other military necessity. That is their whole purpose. Mohammed al-Qahtani is among the first six detainees scheduled to go on trial for complicity in the 9/11 attacks; the Bush administration has announced that it will seek the death penalty. Last month, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have outlawed the use by the C.I.A. of the techniques set out in the Haynes Memo and used on al-Qahtani. Whatever he may have done, Mohammed al-Qahtani was entitled to the protections afforded by international law, including Geneva and the torture convention. His interrogation violated those conventions. There can be no doubt that he was treated cruelly and degraded, that the standards of Common Article 3 were violated, and that his treatment amounts to a war crime. If he suffered the degree of severe mental distress prohibited by the torture convention, then his treatment crosses the line into outright torture. These acts resulted from a policy decision made right at the top, not simply from ground-level requests in Guantánamo, and they were supported by legal advice from the president's own circle.

Those responsible for the interrogation of Detainee 063 face a real risk of investigation if they set foot outside the United States. Article 4 of the torture convention criminalizes "complicity" or "participation" in torture, and the same principle governs violations of Common Article 3.

It would be wrong to consider the prospect of legal jeopardy unlikely. I remember sitting in the House of Lords during the landmark Pinochet case, back in 1999-in which a prosecutor was seeking the extradition to Spain of the former Chilean head of state for torture and other international crimes-and being told by one of his key advisers that they had never expected the torture convention to lead to the former president of Chile's loss of legal immunity. In my efforts to get to the heart of this story, and its possible consequences, I visited a judge and a prosecutor in a major European city, and guided them through all the materials pertaining to the Guantánamo case. The judge and prosecutor were particularly struck by the immunity from prosecution provided by the Military Commissions Act. "That is very stupid," said the prosecutor, explaining that it would make it much easier for investigators outside the United States to argue that possible war crimes would never be addressed by the justice system in the home country-one of the trip wires enabling foreign courts to intervene. For some of those involved in the Guantánamo decisions, prudence may well dictate a more cautious approach to international travel. And for some the future may hold a tap on the shoulder.

"It's a matter of time," the judge observed. "These things take time." As I gathered my papers, he looked up and said, "And then something unexpected happens, when one of these lawyers travels to the wrong place."

DAVE LINDORFF, BUZZFLASH Back in late 2006, it was widely reported in the Latin American media that President Bush, or perhaps his old man, had bought a 100,000-acre farm in a remote area of Paraguay. What struck people at the time was the choice of country. Paraguay, of course, has gained a certain Club Med status among the world's villains and criminal elements as the place to go when the law's on your tail. The country, ruled for six decades by the dictatorial and fascist Colorado Party of Gen. Alfredo Stroesser, an almost cartoon caricature of a Latin American dictator, has no extradition treaty with any nation. That's why it has long harbored aging Nazis, bank robbers, and a string of ousted or retired Latin American dictators and their assistants over the years.

Given that President Bush, once he leaves office on January 20, 2009, will no longer have the diplomatic immunity conferred upon heads of state, or the Constitutional protection against indictment by domestic prosecutors, it makes sense that he would be looking for a safe haven from the long arm of the law.

After all, the guy is guilty of a huge laundry list of international crimes, from the Crime Against Peace and Conspiracy against Peace in the UN Charter, to Geneva Convention violations such as approval of torture of prisoners, collective punishment of civilians, the killing of children and child soldiers, the failure to protect occupied citizens, the use of banned weapons, etc., etc., and also of domestic crimes, ranging from political use of government employees, conspiracy, treason, lying to federal officials, defrauding Congress, etc. . .

Only trouble is, Paraguay may not be such a safe haven for long.

Last month, a former Roman Catholic Bishop with leftist, populist tendencies, Fernando Lugo, surprised almost everyone in Paraguay, and no doubt President Bush, by winning the national presidential election, ousting the Colorado Party for the first time in 61 years. There is talk that among other things, Lugo is thinking of returning Paraguay to the community of nations, by signing some of those extradition agreements.

If he does that, Bush may be stuck having to hide behind his rump squad of Secret Service agents down at the Crawford Ranch, hoping they can keep the process servers from Brattleboro and Marlboro, VT, with their war crimes arrest warrants, at bay.

5 Comments:

At May 3, 2008 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the Secret Service is charged with protecting ex-presidents, protecting them from due process and accountability under the law is a travesty.

 
At May 4, 2008 9:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is, however, wishful thinking of the most arrant variety to believe that any of these people from Bush onwards are ever going to be brought to book in a court of law anywhere for their actions. These people do not simply bend the laws to accomodate their agendas--they write these laws and ARE the law; and we'd do extremely well not to allow ourselves to be gulled into the belief that there's some higher abstract "law" out there that they don't control. They could never have risen to the places they now occupy, and remained in them, were that not the case. No more rose-coloured fairy tales anent these people's ultimate 'accountability' please, Sam.

 
At May 4, 2008 12:37 PM, Anonymous m said...

6:25,

I have to agree that it is unlikely that Bush, et al, will ever be held accountable for their crimes. But, I do believe there is value in reminding everyone that the moral, ethical and legal course would be a trial in the US for treason, as well as trials in the Hague for Crimes Against the Peace, Crimes Against Humanity, torture, etc.

Even a serious attempt might help to deter, or at least restrain, the next war mongering bastard that comes along. The only downside is that if such a trial looks possible, and McCain is not elected, there might be a declaration of martial law and the suspension of power transfer by Jan 20, 2009.

 
At May 6, 2008 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting to ponder if the actions of Brattleboro and Marlboro have anything to do with the fact that Paul Bremer no longer chooses to reside in Chester, Vermont.

 
At May 8, 2008 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I very seriously doubt it; cities, townships and municipalities can pass all the high-flown ceremonial resolutions they choose--acting on them is quite another matter altogether, and I strongly suspect any who tried would find Federal agents and troops on their doorstep in short order.

 

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