Human Rights Watch reports that there are solid grounds to investigate George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld
- The Guardian (external - login to view), Tuesday 12 July 2011
The wrongdoing of that administration is today broadly, although not universally, acknowledged. Waterboarding has been declared as torture (external - login to view) by the attorney general Eric Holder. Enhanced interrogation techniques are no longer used. The CIA has closed down its programme of secret detention centres. Unidentified planes no longer land at odd hours at Prestwick Airport with unknown human cargoes (although rendition-type questions have been raised about a Somali interrogated aboard a US warship for two months). There are still 171 detainees in Guantánamo Bay, and military commissions still exist, but in general it is fair to say the most egregious practises of the Bush war on terror have ceased. Far from enhancing security, the wisdom in Washington today is that these practises endangered it .
The crimes are there for all to see, but the people who ordered them, sanctioned them and bent the Geneva conventions for them, walk free. Two weeks ago, the search for accountability hit the buffers when Mr Holder announced that a two-year review (external - login to view) by a specially appointed prosecutor determined that any further investigation into the mistreatment of nearly 100 detainees was not warranted. Criminal proceedings will be launched only about the deaths of two suspects in CIA custody. This is no surprise as the probe was limited to unauthorised acts, and could not examine authorised acts like waterboarding.
HRW today says that there are solid grounds to investigate George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet (external - login to view)for authorising torture and war crimes and that the roles of the former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and former attorney general John Ashcroft should also be examined. Nothing will happen in the US, where the rule of law has been rebooted rather than applied. But this important report could provide grounds for the arrest of suspects abroad under universal jurisdiction. Political inconvenience should not be confused with criminal liability. If it is, justice is for other nations to apply.