Posts Tagged ‘war crimes’
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports:
The United Nations plans to set up a special investigation unit examining claims of civilian deaths in individual US covert drone strikes.
UN investigators have been critical of US ‘extrajudicial executions’ since they began in 2002. The new Geneva-based unit will also look at the legality of the programme.
The latest announcement, by UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC, was made in a speech on October 25 at Harvard law school. Emmerson, who monitors counter-terrorism for the UN, previously called in August for the US to hand over video of each covert drone attack.
The London-based lawyer became the second senior UN official in recent months to label the tactic of deliberately targeting rescuers and funeral-goers with drones ‘a war crime’. That practice was first exposed by the Bureau for the Sunday Times in February 2012.
‘The Bureau has alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view,’ said Emmerson.
Both Heyns and Emmerson have become increasingly vocal in recent months, even as the United States attempts to put its targeted killings scheme on a more formal footing.
‘If the relevant states are not willing to establish effective independent monitoring mechanisms… then it may in the last resort be necessary for the UN to act. Together with my colleague Christof Heyns, [the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial killings], I will be launching an investigation unit within the special procedures of the [UN] Human Rights Council to inquire into individual drone attacks,’ Emmerson said in his speech.
The unit will also look at . . .
As Paul Begala pointed out, we actually executed Japanese soldiers following WWII for the crime of waterboarding prisoners. See this post on Crooks & Liars for an interesting interchange, and read Begala’s Huffington Post column. From that column:
On November 29, 2007, Sen. McCain, while campaigning in St. Petersburg, Florida, said, "Following World War II war crime trials were convened. The Japanese were tried and convicted and hung for war crimes committed against American POWs. Among those charges for which they were convicted was waterboarding."
Sen. McCain was right and the National Review Online is wrong. Politifact, the St. Petersburg Times‘ truth-testing project (which this week was awarded a Pulitzer Prize), scrutinized Sen. McCain’s statement and found it to be true. Here’s the money quote from Politifact:
"McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as ‘water cure,’ ‘water torture’ and ‘waterboarding,’ according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning." Politifact went on to report, "A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps."
The folks at Politifact interviewed R. John Pritchard, the author of The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Complete Transcripts of the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. They also interviewed Yuma Totani, history professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and consulted the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, which published a law review article entitled, "Drop by Drop: Forgetting the History of Water Torture in U.S. Courts." Bottom line: Sen. McCain was right in 2007 and National Review Online is wrong today. America did execute Japanese war criminals for waterboarding.
An investigation by a group of former Israeli soldiers has uncovered new evidence of the military’s conduct during the assault on Gaza two months ago. According to the group Breaking the Silence, the witness statements of the 15 soldiers who have come forward to describe their concerns over Operation Cast Lead appear to corroborate claims of random killings and vandalism carried out during the operation made by a separate group of anonymous servicemen during a seminar at a military college.
Although Breaking the Silence’s report is not due to be published for several months, the testimony it has received already suggests widespread abuses stemming from orders originating with the Israeli military chain of command.
"This is not a military that we recognise," said Mikhael Manekin, one of the former soldiers involved with the group. "This is in a different category to things we have seen before. We have spoken to a lot of different people who served in different places in Gaza, including officers. We are not talking about some units being more aggressive than others, but underlying policy. So much so that we are talking to soldiers who said that they were having to restrain the orders given."
John C. Yoo is a study in contrasts. He’s a soft-spoken legal scholar viewed by his colleagues at the University of California at Berkeley as a model of civility. But he’s also emerged as the public face of Bush-era torture policy, the author of a series of radical legal documents described by Yale Law School’s Jack Balkin as a “theory of presidential dictatorship.”
In law-school classrooms around the country, Yoo’s name is invoked as an example of a lawyer who, stirred by political calculus, acts unethically or at least unwisely. His appearances often draw crowds of angry protestors who shower him with epithets like “war criminal” and tie him personally to the torture and death of prisoners in the war on terror. Now, under advice of counsel, Yoo has stopped booking appearances. There is a distinct chill in the air.
In one of the memoranda the Obama Justice Department released last Monday, Yoo, then deputy assistant in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, argued that President Bush was free to use the U.S. military domestically in counterterrorism operations and needn’t be bothered by the Fourth or First amendments. In an op-ed published last week in the Wall Street Journal, Yoo explained that fears about the Bill of Rights are misplaced—it was all just an exercise in justifying self-defense against a Mumbai-style attack and the references to the First Amendment are gratuitous.
But Yoo offers no clear explanation about the circumstances that led to his writing the memo nor do we know how it was used. The memo could have been written to authorize a sweeping domestic-surveillance operation put in place by military intelligence agencies, which former National Security Agency employees have now explained was actually in place and being tinkered with as Yoo was crafting his memorandum. No doubt Congress will soon give Yoo an opportunity to answer questions about the memo under oath.
One part of John Yoo seems to enjoy the public controversy and approaches debate with zeal, while another part of him must feel at least a bit of anxiety. Just as his successors at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel left behind two memoranda repudiating Yoo’s work in devastating terms—disclosed by the department last week—the Justice Department’s ethics watchdog is now finalizing its own report.
Sources at the department who have examined this report state that it echoes some of the harshest criticisms that have appeared in the academic literature, but the report’s real bombshell, they say, will be its detailed disclosure of Yoo’s dealings with the White House in connection with the preparation of the memos. It is widely suspected that the Yoo memos were requested as after-the-fact legal cover for draconian policies that were already in place (“CYA memos”). If the Justice Department internal probe concludes this is the case, that could have clear consequences for the current debate surrounding the Bush administration’s accountability for torture…
When President George W. Bush visited the West Bank a year ago, Palestinian militants in Gaza vented their anger by ransacking the American International School here, smashing windows, stealing computers and torching a small fleet of buses.
It was just the latest episode in a decade-long string of bombings, kidnappings and lootings at the elite private school, which isn’t connected to the U.S. government but has an American-style curriculum and coed, English-only classrooms, which have made it a favorite target of Islamic extremists.
On Jan. 3, the school finally was destroyed, but not by Islamist extremists. An Israeli airstrike flattened the two-story building and sprayed shards of steel and stone over the manicured lawns and soccer field. The night watchman was killed. Books, computers, science equipment and art supplies were crushed beneath the wreckage.
Within moments, Gaza’s perhaps most pro-Western institution — a symbol of possibility in a sealed-off, war-torn land — was gone.
Not, apparently, if they are part of the Bush Administration, which is getting the “special” form of justice: no prosecutions. Spencer Ackerman, in the Washington Independent:
Eli Lake at The Washington Times has the exclusive:
President Obama’s choice to run the Justice Department has assured senior Republican senators that he won’t prosecute CIA officers or political appointees who were involved in the Bush administration’s policy of “enhanced interrogations.”
Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, a Republican from Missouri and the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview with The Washington Times that he will support Eric H. Holder Jr.’s nomination for Attorney General because Mr. Holder assured him privately that Mr. Obama’s Justice Department will not prosecute former Bush officials involved in the interrogations program.
So much for all that.
I find this miscarriage of justice intensely disappointing. When people break laws, including international treaties ratified by the US, they deserve prosecution. Certainly they can mount a defense: “Someone told me it would be okay” seems to be the main line of argument. So they can defend themselves and explain the reasons, and the jury will sort it out. That’s the system the US once had, and it seemed to work pretty well on the whole, with exceptions. But the new system, in which people can commit crimes without being prosecuted provided they are well-connected, seems to be a move toward a Mafia-like system of justice.