In the wake of the release of the Senate’s Summary Report on the CIA torture program, a German human rights organization, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), has filed criminal charges in Germany against the architects of the program and the Bush administration.
17 December 2014 – The ECCHR has today lodged criminal complaints against former CIA head George Tenet, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the administration of former US President George W. Bush. The ECCHR is accusing Tenet, Rumsfeld and a series of other persons of the war crime of torture under paragraph 8 section 1(3) of the German Code of Crimes against International Law (Völkerstrafgesetzbuch). The constituent elements of the crime of torture were most recently established in the case by the US Senate in its report on CIA interrogation methods. “The architects of the torture system – politicians, officials, secret service agents, lawyers and senior army officials – should be brought before the courts,” says ECCHR General Secretary Wolfgang Kaleck, who is appearing today in connection with the issue in front of the German Parliamentary Committee on legal affairs. “By investigating members of the Bush administration, Germany can help to ensure that those responsible for abduction, abuse and illegal detention do not go unpunished.” [..]
ECCHR calls on Federal Prosecutor Harald Range to open investigations into the actions of Tenet, Rumsfeld and other perpetrators and to set up a monitoring process as soon as possible. This would allow the German authorities to act immediately in the event that one of the suspects enters European soil and not have to wait until such point before beginning the complex investigations and legal deliberations. [..]
While criminal complaints against those most responsible for the crimes have been discontinued by the authorities, investigatory proceedings are ongoing in Spain and France in the case of individuals who were detained in Guantánamo. ECCHR is representing German resident Murat Kurnaz in the Spanish proceedings. There is no indication that legal action will be taken by US authorities in relation to torture in Guantánamo and in Iraq. For this reason, recourse will be had to all available legal mechanisms in Europe in order to establish legal liability and to lend support to calls within the US for independent investigations into those responsible at the highest level.
Other criminal complaints have been filed in Spain, Switzerland and France. So far, the only person involved with the CIA torture program who has been charged with a crime is the man who exposed the war crimes, whistleblower John Kiriakou.
Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman and Juan González spoke with Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and chairman of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, and longtime defense attorney Martin Garbus about the charges.
Even the New York Times Editorial Board agreed and, in a scathing editorial, accused President Barack Obama of failing his duty to prosecute the tortures and their bosses.
He did allow his Justice Department to investigate the C.I.A.’s destruction of videotapes of torture sessions and those who may have gone beyond the torture techniques authorized by President George W. Bush. But the investigation did not lead to any charges being filed, or even any accounting of why they were not filed. [..]
These are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture. [..]
No amount of legal pretzel logic can justify the behavior detailed in the report. Indeed, it is impossible to read it and conclude that no one can be held accountable. At the very least, Mr. Obama needs to authorize a full and independent criminal investigation. [..]
The question everyone will want answered, of course, is: Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president.
Actually, it’s not hard at all. Perhaps the president, after six years, has finely found the courage to do some of the things he promised when first elected, releasing the the innocent men tortured and held illegally at Guantanamo and normalizing diplomatic and some economic relations with Cuba, will find the courage to order his Attorney General to bring them up on charges and put this national disgrace to really behind us.