The following is an excellent excerpt from the book “CHEATING JUSTICE; How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law and Plotted to Avoid Prosecution—and What We Can Do About It” by Elizabeth Holtzman with Cynthia L. Cooper from Chapter Five “International Justice: Accountability for the Bush Team Abroad” on page 153 and I quote: “Prosecutions in Other Nations Based on Country Jurisdiction – In February 2011, one case in Spain was allowed to proceed to a further investigation, a step described as “monumental” and “the first real investigation of the U.S. torture program,” by the Center for Constitutional Rights. The Spanish National Court allowed Laheen Ikassrien to continue pursuing his claim of torture by the United States in the face of an attempt by the Spanish prosecutor to exclude him and reject his claim. Ikassrien, a Moroccan native who had lived in Spain for thirteen years, said that he suffered physical and mental abuse from torture as a detainee in Guantanamo. The issuance of a subpoena for testimony from Major General Miller, the former commanding officer at Guantanamo, was under consideration, an especially important action because “the case will surely move up the chain of command,” the Center for Constitutional Rights said to “Jurist.”
Two other cases were pending in Spain. One involved a criminal case against three U.S. soldiers who were accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman during the shelling of a hotel in Baghdad on April 8, 2003. The case went through a lot of hoops, seeming to open and close regularly. According to an article in “El Pais” in December 2010, U..S embassy cables released by WikiLeaks bragged of meddling and said that the Spanish government “has been helpful” in getting the case dropped. But the case was revived in court on July 6, 2010, according to “El Pais,” which said, “After numerous legal maneuvers and pressure, the US Embassy was unable to sweep the prosecution under the rug.”
The final Spanish proceeding involved an investigation into the case of Khaled El-Masri of Germany because the U.S. aircraft that transported him to a torture site made a stop in Spanish territory. A Spanish prosecutor sought to issue arrest warrants for the thirteen CIA agents who kidnapped El-Masri in early 2010, according an article by Scott Horton in “Harper’s.” WikiLeads cables showed that the U.S. government again pressured Spain to make the case go away, and little was made public about the forward progress of the case.
Germany also reviewed prosecution of CIA officers for the forced removal of El-Masri. The case went nowhere. Even after a German court issued an arrest warrant for the thirteen CIA agents who had strong-armed and taken el-Masri to a torture site, the German government refused to seek extradition. The leak of U.S. State Department cables by WikiLeaks on November 28, 2010, revealed a familiar backstory: The Bush administration issued not-very-subtle threats to German officials. “American officials exerted sustained pressure on Germany not to enforce arrest warrants against Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in the 2003 kidnapping of a German citizen,” wrote Michael Slackman in the “New York Times.” A cable dated February 7, 2007, revealed that the U.S. deputy ambassador, John Koenig, issued “a pointed warning,” about a “negative impact” and told Germany to “weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the US,” according to the “Times.” The warnings worked. “It would be easy to write off the details from the cables as mere trifles if they hadn’t been confirmed by reality. In 2007, then-Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries decided not to further pursue the 13 CIA agents,” said “Der Spiegel” in December 2010.
Another striking case emerged in Poland, where the CIA ran a secret black-site prison in Stare Kiejkuty. Several U.S. detainees were tortured there and Warsaw prosecutors began investigating possible crimes arising out of detainee abuse at the CIA’s site in 2008. Polish government officials could be held accountable in the proceedings, and a great deal of information about the black site could come to light. In October 2009 the U.S. Department of Justice turned down a request from Poland for cooperation in completing a probe, saying that it considered the matter closed, according the article “US Rejects Polish Call for Help in Alleged CIA Prison Probe” by Agence Frances Presse. In October 2010, a major development occurred in the case when lawyers for detainee Abd al-Ramhim al-Nashiri announced that the prosecutor had granted him “victim status” in the proceedings. Under the legal system in Poland, this official status gives al-Nashiri’s lawyers the right to review evidence and call witnesses. The lawyers said they wanted top CIA officials to testify.
The “victim status” designation also strongly suggests that the prosecutors accord substantial validity to al-Nashiri’s claims. The proceedings open the possibility for a fuller disclosure of what happened. If the Polish prosecutors decide to proceed against U.S. officials, extradition proceedings or arrest warrants would create an international stir. Polish prosecutions might encourage other nations where torture occurred at CIA black sites to take action too, including Lithuania, which has been sluggish, and Romania, which has done nothing.
The Bush administration set a patten of using threats and whispered recriminations to shut down prosecutions in other nations that are seeking to pursue justice for torture victims or for war crimes. If and when those nations do act, they will add to the global call for the United States to take accountability steps at home.
Civil Compensation and Lawsuits in Other Nations – People detained by the United States without just cause, particularly when tortured, have brought actions in a variety of forums, as described above. Using claims of collaboration with the U.S. torture scheme, some have also sued their own governments for damages. Legitimate civil lawsuits for damages can be powerful tools for digging out the facts and uncovering the source of wrongdoing.
Two major legal settlements have been reached. In November 2010, the British government announced that it would pay a confidential sum, believed to be tens of millions of dollars, to settle lawsuits with sixteen British citizens or legal residents who had been detained and subjected to torture by the United States. Most had been held in Guantanamo prison, but others were held in Afghanistan, Morocco, and Egypt.
The men had alleged that British intelligence agencies colluded in their detention and mistreatment by the United States. They said that they had been subjected to sleep deprivation, extremes of noise, heat and cold, beatings and death threats; one man said that he lost sight in one eye after it was rubbed with a saturated cloth.
The announcement of the settlement in one case came not long after a court ordered the British government to turn over as many as half a million confidential documents. Previously the British had tangled with unrelenting U.S. objections to the release of a seven-paragraph summary of the experiences of detainee Binyan Mohamed, warning that the United States would consider ending security cooperation with Britain, reported the “Jurist” in 2009. One British newspaper, the ”Daily Mail,” referred to the settlement with two words: “Hush Money.”
Canada also settled with one of its citizens, Maher Arar, who was detained by the United States in 2002 and “rendered” to Syria, where he was tortured. After release, he was exonerated of any wrongdoing. The Canadian government apologized and agreed to pay Arar $9.8 million, although the U.S. courts have refused even to hear his case. In 2003 Arar told “Democracy Now!:” “Since my release I have been suffering from anxiety, constant fear, and depression. . . . But I promise myself one thing—that I will continue my quest for justice.”
Civil lawsuits brought in other nations are valuable tools for providing redress to victims of torture, and some have managed to bring out information and details about the U.S. use of torture and the collaboration of other countries. But the extreme resistance of the U.S. government and its willingness to protect CIA and top Bush administration officials make the cases unlikely to result in the justice that Maher Arar and other torture victims seek, or the accountability that Americans deserve.
European Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – When every effort to get justice for Khaled El-Masri in the United States, Germany, and Macedonia came to nothing, he sought help from the European Court of Human Rights.
Regional international courts may adjudicate complaints that arise in their geographic area. The European Court of Human Rights serves the forty-seven members of the European Union and may act to protect the civil and political rights of citizens. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights serve the twenty-one members of the organization of American States in Central, Latin, and South America that have ratified the commission and court. (The United States is not among the ratifying nations.) The commission investigates complaints of human rights violations and appropriate cases may be referred to the court for further action.
In October 2010, the European Court of Human Rights required Macedonia to explain its involvement in the extraordinary rendition of El-Masri in a case brought by the Open Society Justice Initiative, reported Richard Norton-Taylor in the “Guardian.” “The European court of human rights has for the first time told a state it has a case to answer over the CIA’s practice of seizing terror suspects and subjecting them to mistreatment in secret jails,” wrote Norton-Taylor.
On April 9, 2008, a case was filed before the Inter-American Commission seeking an apology and a declaration that the U.S. rendition program violated El-Masri’s rights, according to the ACLU, which is handling the matter.
In 2005, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the actions at Guantanamo and called for an end to rendition, according to author Michael Haas. And, in 2008, a detainee in Guantanamo, Djamel Ameziane, filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission over the conditions of imprisonment, including solitary confinement for six years, torture, and denial of medical care, notes Haas.
Decisions from the European court or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that support accountability could draw attention to disgraceful U.S. torture practices and have a ripple effect on engaging the United States to take steps toward accountability.”
(THIS CHAPTER (FIVE) TELLS JUST EXACTLY HOW THE BUSH-CHENEY ADMINISTRATION BROKE THE LAW AND SHOULD BE PROSECUTED JUST EXACTLY THE WAYS THE NUREMBERG TRIALS (INTERNATIONAL MILITARY TRIBUNAL-NUREMBERG) PROSECUTED GERMANY AFTER WORLD WAR II, WHICH CAN TAKE PLACE AFTER THEY ARE OUT OF OFFICE.
LaVern Isely, Progressive, Overtaxed, Independent Middle Class Taxpayer and Public Citizen and AARP Members