A step forward!

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

In an effort to derive some direction and a way forward to accountability, on March 20, 2009, Colleen Costello of the World Organization for Human Rights USA, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke before the Inter-American Commission Human Rights, in  Washington D.C.  The issue:  “Accountability for Violations of Human Rights in the United States.”

Colleen Costello laid forth the details of our torture, including the waterboarding of Sheik Khalid Mohamed, our detention systems, renditions, and secret prisons.

Michael Ratner spoke with passion concerning the many obstacles confronting our efforts to achieve accountability, including some of the “legal” ones put in place by the Bush Administration, such as the Military Commissions Act, a lack of habeas corpus and how all efforts, thus far, have been thwarted by the Obama administration.  That Sen. Leahy has called for a “truth commission” with immunity provisions, but would not lead necessarily to criminal prosecutions.  He spoke with a sense of urgency and there truly is one, in terms of the U.S. statute of limitations on torture, we have a window of one and half years to prosecute.  Moreover, Ratner pointed out that an Executive Order banning torture can easily be reversed by the next President and thus, accountability is the only conceivable way to assure that the U.S. is no longer a party to torture.  One of the panel members of the IACHR reminded Ratner that there was no statute of limitations on the torture in international terms.

Jamil Dakwar spoke concerning the difficulty in obtaining documents because of the “state secrecy” stance, and that they (the UCLA) were able to obtain some documentation through the Freedom of Information Act.

Also speaking was Lewis Amselem, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the Organization of American States (OAS).  He spoke about the immediate steps of President Obama to end torture, close down Guantanamo, close CIA prisons by his Executive Orders.  He went on and on about these accomplishments without really confronting the issue of accountability.  

A Sarah Paoletti, Division of the Legal Clinic, University of Pennsylvania, also spoke briefly.

In the proceedings, and at the conclusion various members of the IACHR, i.e., Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Commissioner of the CIDH, asked what the Commission could do.  Santiago A. Canton, Executive Secretary of the CIDH, spoke and asked that documents be produced to the Commission, as well as any cases that have been brought for trial on torture.

The entire video may be seen here.  It is about an hour long and very worth while seeing.  (Home)

Also, written complaints filed with the IACHR will be posted here.

Here are videos of the presentations of Colleen Costello and Michael Ratner. h/t David Swanson

Colleen Costello’s testimony:

Michael Ratner’s testimony:

I think, however, although Colleen Costello’s testimony regarding torture was quite good, I’m not quite sure why she limited “waterboarding” to Sheik Khalid Mohamed and made no mention of two others that were also “waterboarded.”  Also, I think it would have been good had she or Jamil Dakwar pointed out the 108 deaths (prior to 1005) that had occurred at the various prisons, most of which detainee deaths were a result of literally being tortured to death.  

Michael Ratner injected as much as he could in a rather short amount of time.  A real fighter!

Lewis Amselem, was a disgrace, IMO.  It seems he was trying to justify torture in a way.

Perhaps, the actual complaints will be a little more inclusive — we’ll have to wait and see.

Nonetheless, this was and is a definite step forward, as I see it, and provides a little hope, as well.


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  1. hearing in it’s entirety.  The manner in which it is conducted is quite impressive, as was the hearing, itself!

    Tips for the WOHR-USA and the CCR!  

  2. According to Scott Horton!

    A case, similar to the one of Binyam Mohamed, the UK citizen recently returned to England, after six years of torture, has been filed in the

    . . . .Spanish national security court has opened a criminal probe focusing on Bush Administration lawyers who pioneered the descent into torture at the prison in Guantánamo. The criminal complaint can be examined here. Público identifies the targets as University of California law professor John Yoo, former Department of Defense general counsel William J. Haynes II (now a lawyer working for Chevron), former vice presidential chief-of-staff David Addington, former attorney general and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, now a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and former Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith.

    The case was opened in the Spanish national security court, the Audencia Nacional. In July 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court overturned the conviction of a former Spanish citizen who had been held in Guantánamo, labeling the regime established in Guantánamo a “legal black hole.” The court forbade Spanish cooperation with U.S. authorities in connection with the Guantánamo facility. The current criminal case evolved out of an investigation into allegations, sustained by Spain’s Supreme Court, that the Spanish citizen had been tortured in Guantánamo.

    The Spanish criminal court now may seek the arrest of any of the targets if they travel to Spain or any of the 24 nations that participate in the European extraditions convention (it would have to follow a more formal extradition process in other countries beyond the 24). The Bush lawyers will therefore run a serious risk of being apprehended if they travel outside of the United States.

    Judge Baltasar Garzón is involved in the investigation, according to the El País report. Garzón is Europe’s best known counterterrorism magistrate, responsible for hundreds of cases targeting the activities of ETA and related Basque terrorist organizations. He also spearheaded the successful investigation of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations operating in the Maghreb region, including Spanish enclaves in Morocco. But Garzón is best known for his prosecution of a criminal investigation against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet that resulted in the issuance of an arrest warrant for Pinochet while he was visiting England. . . . .


  3. Thanks for asking how I’m doing, Tahoe, here’s some pics:

    Red River flooding

  4. A little good news is REALLY needed, n’est que c’est pas?

    Thanks for lift!  🙂

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