U.N. torture official on America’s legal obligations to impose accountability
Good column by Glenn Greenwald.
After President Obama announced last week that he opposes prosecutions of CIA officials who tortured detainees in reliance on OLC memos purporting to legalize that conduct (a decision which is not Obama’s to make), the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, announced that Obama’s policy of immunizing CIA torturers violates international law and, specifically, the clear obligations of the U.S. under the Convention Against Torture (signed by Ronald Reagan in 1988).
This morning, I conducted a 20-minute interview with Nowak — which can be heard by clicking PLAY on the recorder below — regarding the specific legal obligations of the U.S. to provide accountability for crimes of torture; how Obama’s invocation of the "state secrets privilege" to block torture victims from having a day in court independently violates the Convention; and the detrimental impact that will result for the U.N.’s ability to hold torturers around the world accountable (which is Nowak’s prime mandate) if the U.S. announces to the world that its own political leaders who systematically ordered torture will be shielded from all accountability.
On a quite related note, many people, such as Scott Horton, have argued that prosecutions of Bush DOJ lawyers who authorized torture find precedent in the Nuremberg prosecutions (as part of the Justice Case) of German lawyers who also declared various war crimes to be legal. International law professor Kevin Jon Heller — who questioned the applicability of that precedent — today writes about a separate set of prosecutions by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, as part of The Ministries Case, in which German officials were prosecuted for doing nothing other than stating, when asked, that they had no objection to the deportation of 5,000 Jews from France. Those officials, who were convicted at Nuremberg, did not order the deportation or carry it out; rather, they merely failed, when asked, to object to the policy on the ground that it violated international law. Professor Heller argues that this case provides an almost perfect precedent for holding OLC torture-authorizing officials accountable (emphasis in original): …