Posts Tagged ‘International Human Rights’

REPRISE: August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

From August 20, 2011

On this date, 43 years ago, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, putting down with its tanks what its own broken ideology could no longer extinguish–ideals of freedom of the press and personal liberty free from the oppressive weight of a totalitarian state.

Those ideals and dreams survived, and triumphed.

See The Trenchant Observer,
“August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!” (Personal Takes)”
August 20, 2010

The original article, from 2010, is reproduced below.

***

Alexander Dubcek

Personal Takes

I had a picture of Alexander Dubček on my wall when I was a student studying international law. He represented the hope of many in Czechoslovakia and beyond that the communist party might evolve from within. He and the President of Czechoslovakia, Ludvik Svoboda (whose last name meant “freedom” in Czech), were for a brief moment during “the Prague Spring” the team that stood for the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, within a communist party and under a communist government.

The threat was too great for the leaders of the Soviet Union, and after a summer of feints and betrayals and illusions, they sent their tanks across the frontier into the sovereign territory of Czechoslovakia, on August 20, 1968.

29 years earlier, Adolph Hitler had sent his tanks into Prague, following the betrayal of Chamberlain at Munich which recognized the annexation of the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia settled by ethnic Germans.

In March 1938, the linking together or annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria was consummated at the barrel of a gun. The infamous Munich Pact followed on September 30, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. On March 15, 1939 Germany invaded and took direct control of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed months later, setting off World War II.

These events, for a young international lawyer, seemed together to define the core values of the structure and body of international law and institutions, which had begun following a terrible “world war” in the 17th century, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which at the Peace of Westphalia and through the pen of Hugo Grotius gave birth to the modern system of nation states and to the basic framework of principles and norms of international law.

The devastation and suffering that took place during The Thirty Years’ War underlined the need for rules governing the relations of princes and states. Three centuries later Hitler’s Anschluss and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia defined, in a sense, the core values of international law.

Those core values, which had become clear by the 20th century, included the sanctity of the human person and the principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the political independence or territorial integrity of any state, except in self-defense.

These values were defined by their utter violation, in much the same way that Albert Camus found that moral values were created by their brutal violation by Hitler’s armies and the Gestapo before and during World War II. Camus, who as editor of the French resistance newspaper Libération was a leader in the French resistance, articulated–particularly in “The Rebel” and his novel “The Plague”—a vision of how values acquired their substance and contours not through abstract logic, but more directly through the experience of the horrors of their violation.

So today, on August 20, 2010, let us salute the courage of Dubček and Svoboda in their struggle to put “a human face” on socialism. Years later, their countryman, Václav Havel, gave expression to the dream of freedom of the Prague Spring generation in a voice that resonated through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and throughout the world. Havel became President of Czechoslovakia as a result of “the Velvet Revolution” in 1989.

I remember how in 1968, after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Prague Spring and the autonomous government of Alexander Dubček, it occurred to me that if there were ever a reform from within the Communist party led by a Soviet Dubček, there would be no Soviet tanks to crush the reform. As it turned out, I was only half right. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, introducing glasnost and perestroika, led such a reform. Boris Yeltsin put down the reaction by overcoming tanks in 1991, leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

For insight into the Prague Spring, see Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and the 1988 American movie of the same title, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

The Trenchant Observer

Los casos contra Garzón: Las cuestiones prévias en el caso de la memoria histórica

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

En la sesión de hoy, 24 de enero, el Tribunal Supremo escuchó los argumentos de la fiscalía, la defensa, e de los querrellantes en torno a las cuestiones prévias, que se deben dilucidarse antes de entrar en el fondo del juicio contra Baltasar Garzón por prevaricación relacionado con “el caso de la memoria histórica”.

Dos de las cuestiones prévias podrían llevar al sobreseimiento de este caso. La primera es la acusación de que Luciano Varela, el juez quien instruyó la causa, violó las más básicas normas de la imparcialidad judicial cuando en lugar de rechazar una demanda viciada e incompleta, ayudó a los querellantes corregir sus defectos. Los detalles alegados de como lo hizo parecen ser escandalosos.

La segunda cuestión prévia se gira alrededor de la doctrina Botín del mismo Tribunal Suprema, segón la cual el Tribunal no debe conocer una causa que no cuenta con el apoyo de la fiscalía.

Al oír los argumentos, el Tribunal Supremo suspendió el proceso por una semana mientras llegue a las decisiones correspondientes sobre las cuestiones prévias. De aceptar cualquiera de las dos, el caso se clausurá, dejando a Garzón a la espera de la decisión del Tribunal Supremo en el caso de “las escuchas Gürtel”.

Para los últimos reportajes, véase, por ejemplo:

Julio M. Lázaro, “El fiscal y Garzón exigen la nulidad de la “insólita” instrucción de Varela: Durísimo informe de la fiscalía contra la acusación admitida a Manos Limpias,” El País, 24 de enero de 2012.

Lázaro cita al fiscal Luís Navajas, quien declaró lo siguiente:

“En mis 36 años como fiscal, jamás había visto una resolución parecida, ni en el fondo ni en la forma”, dijo sobre las indicaciones de Varela. Para el fiscal, fue una decisión “absolutamente insólita e insostenible” y la consecuencia fue “transmutar una acusación que no se sostenía” y sobre la que el juez del Supremo coadyuvó “a reconstruir lo que era absolutamente irreconstruíble”.

Véase tambíen,

N. Villanueva, “El fiscal defiende a Garzón y pide que la «memoria histórica» se zanje sin juicio: Arremete contra el instructor, Luciano Varela, por sentar al juez en el banquillo: algo «insólito e insostenible»,” ABC.es, 25 de enero de 2012.

Un comentario por Luis García Montero–quien es poeta, no jurista–sobre el significado más amplio de los casos contra Garzón, que él compara al caso Dreyfuss en Francia al fines del siglo 19, habla de la extrema partidarización de las justicia en España. Además comenta:

Hay situaciones que simbolizan el malestar de una época y, más allá de su significado particular, ponen el dedo en la llaga de un momento histórico. Así ocurrió a finales del sigo XIX con el juicio seguido en Francia contra el capitán Alfred Dreyfus. La falsa acusación de espionaje y la condena a la isla del Diablo tuvo el apoyo decidido del nacionalismo violento y los poderes antisemitas, pero provocó la indignación de una parte de la sociedad, el sector más democrático y concienciado. El caso Dreyfus resumía las contradicciones y las mentiras de la Tercera República francesa.

Ocurrió lo mismo con los debates provocados en España a partir de 1921 por el Desastre de Annual. La tragedia y su polémica pusieron al descubierto no ya las corrupciones dentro de la monarquía de Alfonso XIII, sino la corrupción misma de un régimen fundado en la manipulación de la voluntad popular y en la distancia entre la España oficial y la España real.

Los juicios contra Baltasar Garzón representan un acontecimiento parecido….
….
Aquí no se discute si Baltasar Garzón es simpático o antipático, si resolvió bien o mal en un caso del pasado o si nos parecen oportunos los jueces estrella. Se discute si actuó como prevaricador en las instrucciones del caso Gürtel o en la causa contra los crímenes del franquismo. La opinión de numerosos juristas nacionales e internacionales defiende las interpretaciones del juez Garzón. Esa es la prueba evidente de que no existe delito de prevaricación, sino una forma posible de interpretar la ley.

¿Qué ocurre entonces? El Poder Judicial español descansa en la misma inercia bipartidista que el juego político. No participar de la disciplina de los unos o los otros, como caras de un sistema de control, significa quedarse a la intemperie. El bipartidismo –yo coloco a los míos y tú a los tuyos– ha generado familias de poder que se autoalimentan y actúan de acuerdo con sus rencores profesionales.

Aunque la Fiscalía y los mandos policiales avalan sus actuaciones contra una trama vergonzosa de corruptos, Baltasar Garzón parece condenado. El descrédito nacional e internacional de la Justicia española es un síntoma. Vivimos en un reino degradado, con una memoria y unas instituciones degradadas. La prevaricación es nuestra propia realidad. Somos una mentira. Damos risa.

–Luis García Montero, “Dreyfus, Annual y Garzón,” Blog “La realidad y el sueño”, Público.es (blogs), 22 de enero de 2012.

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)

observer@trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

Véase otros artículos de Observador Incisivo sobre el Caso Garzón, entre ellos los siguientes:

The legal essence of the cases of “prevaricación” against Baltasar Garzón
January 20, 2012

Complaint before U.N. Special Rapporteur alleges U.S. judicial interference in Garzón torture cases in Spain
January 19, 2012

The Baltasar Garzón Case: In Spain, justice itself is on trial
January 17, 2012

¡Que pena para España! Los casos contra Garzón llegan al juicio
16 de enero de 2012

Tribunal Supremo de Justicia rechaza apelación de Garzón para ordenar pruebas; quedan pendientes otros recursos
21 de setiembre de 2010

The legal essence of the cases of “prevaricación” against Baltasar Garzón

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The most essential legal aspect of two of the cases against Baltasar Garzón, the case relating to the Gürtel network wiretaps (las escuchas Gürtel) and the case relating to “historical memory”, is often obscured by a focus on whether Garzón made the right decisions in these cases, or not.

That aspect is the nature of the judicial error he is accused of committing. It is not unusual for judges to reach decisions that prove to be erroneous when reversed on appeal by a higher court. This is the normal way control of legality and of the actions of judges is maintained.

But what is involved in the Gürtel network case and the “historical memory” case is something altogether different. These cases involve private criminal actions brought by the accused in the Gürtel case and by two right-wing groups in the “historical memory” case. Those who disagree with the judge’s previous decisions are now having their day in court–against the judge–in criminal actions which they themselves have brought.

The nature of the charge is signficant: prevaricación, willful decision against justice.

As the Spanish Supreme Court proceeds to deliberate and issue a decision in the Gürtel network case, after three days of an oral trial at the Court, it is useful to closely reread the texts of Articles 446 and 447 of the Spanish Criminal Code, which are the provisions the criminal action against Garzón are based on. Then, after analyzing carefully the text of the law, the reader can decide whether prevaricación has been committed or is being committed in the case, and by whom.

The following analysis is reproduced from The Trenchant Observer, “Garzon’s Accusers are Accused: Abuse of Judicial Power in Garzón Case is Stain on Spanish Judiciary, “The Trenchant Observer, April 13, 2010.

With respect to the case against Garzón, it is not an overstatement to say that the entire Judiciary in Spain is on trial.

It is difficult to comprehend how the Supreme Court of Spain has rejected earlier appeals by Garzón to halt the proceedings. Judge Varela, according to reports in El País, has jumped the gun by characterizing the facts in dispute as constituting the more serious of two possible crimes which the alleged facts could even conceivably have constituted.

The first crime is that of Intentional Unjust Decision (Prevaricación) under Article 446.3 of the Spanish Criminal Code, which provides:

Article 446

The Judge or Magistrate who, knowingly, shall issue a decision or resolution that is unjust shall be punished:

1) With sentence of from one to four years imprisonment in the case of an unjust judgment against the accused in a criminal case for a felony when the sentence has not yet been executed, and with one and a half times the same sentence if the judgment has been executed. In both cases there will be imposed the additional punishment of absolute disqualification for a period of 10 to 20 years.

2) With the sentence of a fine of six to 12 months (wages) and special disqualification from public employment or office for a period of six to 12 years, in the case of an unjust judgment issued against a defendant in the case of a midemeanor (falta),

3) With the sentence of a fine of 12 to 24 months (wages) and special disqualification from public employment or office for a period of 10 to 20 years, when he issues any other decision or resolution that is unjust.

The second crime is that of Grossly Negligent Unjust Decision (Prevaricación) under Article 447 of the Criminal Code, which provides:

Article 447

The judge or magistrate who, by gross imprudence or inexcusable ignorance (imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable), shall issue a decision or resolution which is manifestly unjust shall incur the punishment of special disqualification from public employment or office for a period of from two to six years.

Given the clear precedents that exist in international law, including a judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in 2003 upholding the French conviction of Ely Ould Dah of Mauritania for torture despite the fact that he was not present at the trial and despite a law of amnesty in Mauritania, it is difficult to see how the Spanish Supreme Court could reject the appeal of the denial of Garzon’s motion for dismissal, as they in fact did.

Whether Baltasar Garzón’s decisions were correct or not in accordance with Spanish law is a matter for the Spanish courts, and ultimately the European Court of Human Rights, to decide. The European Convention on Human Rights is itself part of Spanish constitutional law.

Appealing the decisions of a judge on legal grounds is a correct and proper way to express disagreement with a decision, within a democratic state governed by law.

Criminally prosecuting the judge who is the author of that decision in an attempt to end his career, is quite something else.

A travesty of justice has already occurred, at two levels: first, the order of prosecution by Judge Luciano Varela, and second, the decision of the Supreme Court to deny Garzon’s appeal of Varela’s denial of his motion for dismissal.

How long this travesty of justice continues will tell us a lot about the Spanish judiciary and the individuals who currently hold the highest judicial offices in Spain.

The idea that a European judge could have his career in effect ended by the machinations of fellow judges against him, for ordering the investigation of where victims of crimes against humanity (forced disappearances and presumed executions) are buried, is a stain on the Spanish Judiciary, which will remain until Garzón is cleared of these charges and any other charges of a similar nature.

Should the Spanish courts persist in failing to rectify this obvious abuse of judicial power, that stain will ultimately be sealed in history with a judgment against Spain by the European Court of Human Rights.

*****

While the analysis above refers to the “historical memory” case, it applies equally to the Gürtel network case, which was tried in the Supreme Court on January 17, 18 and 19, 2012. We are awaiting the decision in that case.

The trial of Garzón for prevaricación in the “historical memory” case begins next week, on January 24.

Stay tuned.

The Trenchant Observer

E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

See also The Trenchant Observer, “The Baltasar Garzón Case: In Spain, justice itself is on trial,” January 17, 2012 (updated January 20, 2012).

REPRISE (from 2009): Wanted in Oslo—President Obama’s Vision of Peace

Friday, December 9th, 2011

December 10 is Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Two years ago, the world awaited President Obama’s Nobel Prize speech, to be delivered in Oslo on December 10, 2009.

It is well worth reflecting now on his visit to Oslo, and what he did and did not say in his speech, particularly in the light of developments on the ground since then. The following article sets forth what the world needed to hear from the President in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech two years ago:

Wanted in Oslo: President Obama’s Vision of Peace

(First published December 5, 2009)

On December 10, 2009, President Barack Obama will accept the award of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, and deliver a Nobel “lecture” or acceptance speech.

This speech, following his December 2 speech on U.S. military and civilian strategy in Afghanistan, constitutes an extraordinary opportunity for the President to set forth his vision of peace, and how we, the citizens of the planet, can move on a path that leads beyond vague aspirations to concrete achievements in the conquest of peace.

With his renewed emphasis on the vision of a non-nuclear world, Mr. Obama has outlined a core requirement for lasting peace. To his credit, he has resumed the strategic arms control process, withdrawn plans for antiballistic missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland, and now stands on the verge of a new SALT agreement with Russia.

But there are other, important elements of the fabric of peace which he has not yet addressed with clarity. One is the status of international human rights as binding legal rights under both treaties and customary international law. He has spoken of universal norms, but needs to address the specifically legal nature of international human rights. December 10 is Human Rights Day, and this year it will be the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. President Obama needs to speak unambiguously of the importance he believes should be given to international human rights by the United States, and other countries.

A second critical element in the battle for peace is the emphasis given by the United States and other countries to the creation, use, and observance of international law. To be sure, in the United States “international law” has become such a politically charged term that even its staunch advocates shrink from publicly saying the words. However, we need to speak clearly, and we cannot talk clearly about the path to peace without being able to speak forthrightly about international law, and the international law and institutions that must be used, modified, and created in order to coordinate the actions of over 200 countries in managing the affairs of the planet. President Obama should share with the world his thoughts on the subject.

It is commonly recognized that the President is a great orator. On December 10, 2009, the world will be listening intently to hear what he has to say about his vision of peace, and the path we must follow to achieve peace.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

On this date, 43 years ago, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invaded Czechoslovakia, putting down with its tanks what its own broken ideology could no longer extinguish–ideals of freedom of the press and personal liberty free from the oppressive weight of a totalitarian state.

Those ideals and dreams survived, and triumphed.

See The Trenchant Observer,
“August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!” (Personal Takes)”
August 20, 2010

The Trenchant Observer

International Law and the Use of Force: Drones and Real Anarchy Unleashed Upon the World

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Recently a number of articles have been published that are of particular interest with respect to the development and use of drones.

See

William Wan and Peter Finn, “Global race on to match U.S. drone capabilities, Washington Post, July 4, 2011

Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, “War Evolves With Drones, Some Tiny as Bugs,” New York Times, June 19, 2011

Peter Beaumont, “Campaigners seek arrest of former CIA legal chief over Pakistan drone attacks: UK human rights lawyer leads bid to have John Rizzo arrested over claims he approved attacks that killed hundreds of people,” The Guardian, July 15.2010

Michael Tennant, “U.S. Begins Drone Strikes in Somalia,” The New American, July 14, 2011

In previous articles, The Trenchant Observer has pointed to some of the troubling issues in international law raised by the use of unpiloted aircraft or drones in situations removed from the active battlefield in an on-going armed conflict.

Now, with other countries driving to develop comparable military capabilities in the form of drones, some as tiny as bugs, the short-sightedness of U.S. military policy regarding drones has come fully into view.

Moreover, as far as is publicly known, the United States has done nothing to develop in cooperation with other countries new international legal regimes and norms that might help to control what appears to be a headlong rush toward real anarchy among the nations of the world.

President Barack Obama rarely, if ever, speaks of international law. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he spoke not of international law and legal norms, but rather of international “rules” or “norms”. The words “international law” are absent from his discourse.

One consequence has been an approach to international law that can be summed up as “If I can get away with it I can do it,” a formulation that goes back to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s famous dictum about “the bad man theory of law”.

The system of international law is different from the domestic system in which a “bad man” might focus on the law only in terms of what he might be able to get away with. For the nations that are subject to international law are themselves the creators of the norms of international law. They are at once the legislature, the sheriff and the potential offender. This creates a dual responsibility on the part of nation states and their lawyers: They must not simply interpret international legal norms in a permissive way that allows them to do what they want, but also act to safeguard and strengthen the system of international law, and the way international legal norms wiil be interpreted by other countries. This is sometimes referred to by international lawyers as the “double-function” (or “dédoublement fonctionnel”) of international lawyers and states: in choosing a course of action they must not only seek to pursue their own short-term objectives, but also the critically-important longer-term objectives of building a viable international legal order that will contribute to their own security.

It is precisely in this area, of the obligation to build future international norms and regimes, while not weakening those that exist, that the United States has utterly failed with respect to drones. In past eras, legal regimes to prevent the use of space for military purposes, or the seabed, were developed in order to shape the future environment in which force might be employed. This the Obama administration has failed to do with respect to drones, both as a result of a very short-sighted pursuit of immediate military advantages through their use, and as a result of the fact that President Obama does not seem to understand very deeply the function of international law in safeguarding the nation’s security.

To facilitate reflection on these issues and the legality under international law of the use of drones, a review of the following articles previously published here might be useful.

See

UPDATE: Anwar al-Aulaqi: Targeted Killings, Self-Defense, and War Crimes, August 6, 2010

Targeted Killings: U.N. Special Rapporteur Alston Publishes Report to U.N. Human Rights Council, June 2, 2010

Targeted Killings by Drone Aircraft: A View From India, and Some Observations, May 20, 2010

Targeted Assassinations: Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, International Law, and Strategic Implications, February 17, 2010

U.S. Targeted Assassinations Violate Citizen’s Right to Life and Due Process, Undercut International Law
February 3, 2010

As Thomas M. Frank (1931-2009), a distinguished international lawyer and professor of international law at New York University, and Edward Weisband once observed, we should be careful whether to observe and how to interpret international law, because “the law you make may be your own.”

See Thomas M. Franck and Edward Weisband, “The Johnson and Brezhnev Doctrines: The Law You Make May Be Your Own,” Stanford Law Review, Vol. 22, pp. 979-1014 (1970).

The Trenchant Observer

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

REPRISE: Consorting with the Devil? The Debate over the Efficacy of Torture

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Given the renewed debate in the U.S over the efficacy of torture in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, the article republished below, written on April 24, 2009 and first published here on October 1, 2009, puts current arguments in perspective.

*****************************************************

CONSORTING WITH THE DEVIL? THE DEBATE OVER THE EFFICACY OF TORTURE

April 24, 2009–The current debate over whether the use of torture by the Bush administration produced valuable information throws into sharp relief the moral depths to which the United States has sunk–from leading politicians and policymakers to large portions of the press and millions of average citizens. One cannot but wonder whether the rampant corruption in the mortgage market, in stock analysts’ recommendations, and in financial behavior which has brought this country to a new nadir, might not be related to a general lack of ethical and spiritual moorings in broad swathes of the population.

Painfully few religious, business or other leaders have taken continued, strong public stands against our use of torture. With notable exceptions, journalists even today shrink from describing so-called “harsh interrogation techniques” including water boarding as “torture”. Fear of litigation should not completely muzzle the press. The lack of awareness of history reflected in news reports and analyses and debates among officials is astounding, and suggests that the education of even many of our most educated public servants and journalists has a glaring gap at its moral core. That is, even with the best educations at the best universities, this ethical gap and lack of a moral core has not been remedied.

The principle of due obedience, rejected at Nuremberg and accepted but only for a while in Argentina, is quietly accepted without reference to either of those precedents. Or to the facts and considerations that led to the adoption and ratification of the torture convention.

To a nation which cheered episodes of “24” depicting torture by U.S. agents, the correct principle seems to be: “If torture works, we should use it to protect ourselves.”

It is a matter of immense sorrow to note that our leading pundits make scant reference to the fact that the sons and daughters of the Enlightenment, including the drafters of our own Constitution, rejected torture on moral, not utilitarian, grounds.

Let us then, for the sake of argument, postulate that torture in some cases produces useful information. Assuming, arguendo, that this is the case, the question for debate is simply this: “Is the use of torture, if effective, state behavior that is morally justified?

In other words, let’s skip the efficacy debate, which debases all who defend torture on utilitarian grounds. Let us debate the central moral issue: “Is torture, even if effective, morally acceptable, and why or why not?”

In this debate, it is worth bearing in mind that the entire edifice of international human rights rests on the inviolability of the physical integrity of the human person. This core principle is deeply rooted in the religious belief that in each human being there resides a part of the divine. It is a stunning testimony to the depths to which our nation has sunk to listen to the debate over the efficacy of torture as if effectiveness were the essential question. Instead of spymasters and doctors and psychologists who have consorted with the devil, it is time for us to listen to others, to our religious and moral leaders, and to politicians and other leading figures who believe there is a moral framework within which our actions—both as individuals and as a nation–are to be judged. It is time for these leaders to stand up and to speak out loudly and clearly on the morality of torture. It is time for them to take an unequivocal position on the torture our government has adopted as a policy and executed in the bowels of hell. It is time for them to demand the full truth and details of what our government has done, acting in our name.

There is no more fundamental human right than the right to the physical integrity of the human person. This right was recognized at Nuremberg, and enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, in 1948. It was specifically protected in the Geneva conventions on the law of war (humanitarian law), in 1949. The right is the cornerstone of numerous human rights treaties to which the U.S. is a party including the U.N. Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The right is also fully protected in the European Convention on Human Rights, which establishes the constitutional norms and fundamental law on the subject in the nations of Europe.

So let’s hear the debate on whether the underpinnings of these human rights conventions are to be ripped out by allowing torture, and on the ultimate issue of the morality of the use of torture by the state against the individual. In engaging in this discussion, let us also avoid any semblance of the sophomoric debates that took place in our government, in which the question of torture was addressed as if it were a tabula rasa, in blithe ignorance of the history, religious positions, and legal developments that had taken place in the past.

The Trenchant Observer

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
observer@trenchantobserver.com

See also

The Trenchant Observer, “Bin Laden and the Debate Over Torture–Revived, May 7, 2011 ;

Mark Benjamin, “The torture debate is back, but what about the criminal probe?” TIME, May 4, 2011;

The Trenchant Observer, “The Clock is Ticking: U.S. Application of the Torture Convention,” February 20, 2010; and

The Trenchant Observer, “Craig’s Departure, the Ban on Publication of Any Torture Photograph, and Reaffirmation of the Prohibition Against Torture,” November 25, 2009

Bin Laden and the Debate Over Torture–Revived

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Some former U.S. officials responsible for torture under the Bush administration have claimed that the trail to Bin Laden was uncovered by the use of torture. The Telegraph (London) reports:

Jose Rodriguez, the agency’s former head of counterterrorism, said vital information had come from bin Laden deputies Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Aby Faraj al Libbi, who were subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

–Gordon Rayner, “Osama bin Laden dead: torture unlocked bin Laden hideout ex-CIA man says — Key intelligence that led the US to Osama bin Laden’s hideout was obtained under torture in secret “black site” prisons, a former CIA officer has claimed, The Telegraph, May 5, 2011.

John Yoo, the author the legal memoranda authorizing torture under the Bush administration, writes is on Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal:


Sunday’s success also vindicates the Bush administration, whose intelligence architecture marked the path to bin Laden’s door. According to current and former administration officials, CIA interrogators gathered the initial information that ultimately led to bin Laden’s death. The United States located al Qaeda’s leader by learning the identity of a trusted courier from the tough interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, and his successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi.

Armed with the courier’s nom de guerre, American intelligence agencies later found him thanks to his phone call to a contact already under electronic surveillance. Last August, the courier traveled to bin Laden’s compound, but it took another eight months before the CIA became certain that the al Qaeda leader was hiding inside.
Armed with the courier’s nom de guerre, American intelligence agencies later found him thanks to his phone call to a contact already under electronic surveillance. Last August, the courier traveled to bin Laden’s compound, but it took another eight months before the CIA became certain that the al Qaeda leader was hiding inside.

–John Yoo (Op-ed), “From Guantanamo to Abbottabad,” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2011.

The apologists for the torture policy of the Bush administration raise a hard question for President Obama, but not the one they think:

Why have John Yoo and other architects of the Bush administration’s policy of torure not been prosecuted, in accordance with U.S. law and the international legal obligations of the United States under the Convention Against Torture?

See Mark Benjamin, “The torture debate is back, but what about the criminal probe?” TIME, May 4, 2011.

The Trenchant Observer, “The Clock is Ticking: U.S. Application of the Torture Convention,” February 20, 2010.

The Trenchant Observer, “Craig’s Departure, the Ban on Publication of Any Torture Photograph, and Reaffirmation of the Prohibition Against Torture,” November 25, 2009

The claims of the torture apologists have been rebutted by a number of current and past U.S. officials, though that is really beside the point here.

On the fundamental moral issues involved in the debate over the efficacy of torture, see The Trenchant Observer, “Consorting with the Devil? The Debate over the Efficacy of Torture,” October 1, 2009 (written April 24, 2009).

Meanwhile, there appear to be few moral doubts about the efficacy of torture among the leaders of Libya, Syria, and many other countries.

Are we OK with their use of torture? If not, what can we say to them to urge them to stop?

The Trenchant Observer

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

Tribunal Supremo de Justicia rechaza apelación de Garzón para ordenar pruebas; quedan pendientes otros recursos

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

El Observador Incisivo

El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia de España ha rechazado la apelación del juez Baltasar Garzón del auto de Luciano Varela que denegó su solicitud de presentar pruebas de expertos en el derecho penal y el derecho penal internacional, en el caso de “La Memoria Histórica”.

El estado de ánimo, la intención de Garzón en los momentos de abrir y dictar resoluciones en el caso de la memoria histórico, constituye el elemento primordial del delito de prevaricación del cual está acusado. Las pruebas solicitadas tendrían como objeto demostrar que lo que él creía ser ajustado al derecho español y al derecho penal internacional representaba una creencia razonable.

El hecho de que su creencia era razonable le hace más difícil al promotor comprobar que actuaba contra la justicia “a sabiendas”, esto en el caso del artículo 446 (3). En el caso del Artiículo 447, le haría muy difícil al promotor comprobar que la actuación de Garzón fuera “por imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable” al dictar una “sentencia o resolución manifiestamente injusta.”

Jurídicamente, no se requiere que Garzón tuviera la razón absoluta en el caso del Artículo 446 (3). En el caso del Artículo 447, la resolución dificilmente podría ser “manifiestamente injusta” si otros expertos en la materia creían que era correcta, a menos que existiera jurisprudencia legal obligatoria sobre la cuestión.

El texto del Artículo 446 (3) del Código Penal establece:

TÍTULO XX.
DELITOS CONTRA LA ADMINISTRACIÓN DE JUSTICIA.
CAPÍTULO I.
DE LA PREVARICACIÓN.

Artículo 446.

El Juez o Magistrado que, a sabiendas, dictare sentencia o resolución injusta será castigado:

1. Con la pena de prisión de uno a cuatro años si se trata de sentencia injusta contra el reo en causa criminal por delito y la sentencia no hubiera llegado a ejecutarse, y con la misma pena en su mitad superior y multa de doce a veinticuatro meses si se ha ejecutado. En ambos casos se impondrá, además, la pena de inhabilitación absoluta por tiempo de diez a veinte años.

2. Con la pena de multa de seis a doce meses e inhabilitación especial para empleo o cargo público por tiempo de seis a diez años, si se tratara de una sentencia injusta contra el reo dictada en proceso por falta.

3. Con la pena de multa de doce a veinticuatro meses e inhabilitación especial para empleo o cargo público por tiempo de diez a veinte años, cuando dictara cualquier otra sentencia o resolución injustas.

El Artículo 447 del Códígo confirma que las palabras “a sabiendas” del Artículo 446 es más que “imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable,” lo que está sancionado con inhabilitación especial de hasta seis años. El Artiículo 447 establece lo siguiente:

Artículo 447.

El Juez o Magistrado que por imprudencia grave o ignorancia inexcusable dictara sentencia o resolución manifiestamente injusta incurrirá en la pena de inhabilitación especial para empleo o cargo público por tiempo de dos a seis años.

Véase The Tenchant Observer, “Se acusan a los acusadores de Garzón; el caso Garzón es una mancha en el Poder Judicial
de España,” 14 de Abril de 2010.

Así que, de un golpe, el Supremo deniega a Garzón elementos de prueba contundentes para establecer que era razonable lo que creía requerido por el derecho, y de ahí la falta de mala intención de su parte, en el momento de abrir y actuar en el caso de la memoria histórico.

Por lo demás, informa El País,

Es decir, que el tribunal quiere pronunciarse lo justito, porque los cinco magistrados que firman la resolución y que ya han resuelto cuestiones que afectan al fondo del asunto, quieren ser los que juzguen a Garzón por estos hechos. Varios magistrados de otros tribunales y catedráticos no se explican este empecinamiento de estos magistrados de la Sala Segunda en ser ellos los que juzguen a Garzón. Estas fuentes consideran que una eventual condena de Garzón de seguir este procedimiento sería anulado por el Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos por falta de imparcialidad, ya que el tribunal que instruye no puede juzgar y esta Sala ha resuelto en apelación extremos que afectan al fondo del asunto, por lo que estarían claramente contaminados. Los citados magistrados y catedráticos no comprenden por qué el Supremo no designa a otros magistrados -la Sala la integran 15 jueces- para juzgar el caso y salvar el problema. Pero el caso es que son estos los que van a juzgar a Garzón.

–José Yoldi, “El Supremo rechaza las pruebas pedidas por Garzón para su defensa,” El País, el 8 de setiembre de 2010

Quedan pendientes, en tanto, otros recursos de Garzón relacionados al caso de la memoria histórico. Estos inclyen recursos de nulidad de las actuaciones, a los cuales no ha respondido el Supremo Tribunal de Justicia no obstante el largo tiempo transcurrido. Informa El País:

La Sala Segunda del Supremo llevaba cuatro meses sin resolver nada en este asunto desde que el juez instructor, Luciano Varela, notificó siete resoluciones en un mismo día.

Dos de los recursos fueron de nulidad de actuaciones planteados por el abogado de Baltasar Garzón, Gonzalo Martínez Fresneda, y a los que se adhirió el fiscal con un escrito con notoria contundencia. El letrado denunciaba que Varela había instruido a los querellantes Manos Limpias sobre la forma en la que tenían que presentar su escrito de acusación. Aunque retiraron varias páginas que habían sido literalmente copiadas de un auto de Varela, éste les indicó qué aspectos tenían que incluir en su escrito, lo que suponía una vulneración del principio de igualdad de armas en el proceso, ya que ayudaba a una de las partes en contra de otra.

El fiscal se adhirió a los recursos de apelación planteados por la defensa de Garzón en términos muy duros.

–El País, 8 de setiembre de 2010

Véase también “Garzón, más cerca de un juicio injusto,”
Nuevatribuna.es, 21 de setiembre de 2010.

Parece casi seguro, ahora, que los magistrados de la sala segunda penal del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia que denegaron las pruebas solicitadas por Garzón (Juan Saavedra, Adolfo Prego, Joaquín Jiménez, Francisco Monterde y Juan Ramón Berdugo), y que han tardado tanto en fallar sobre los demás recursos de Garzón, pasarán a la historia como actores principales en este caso increíble.

No es una exageración afirmar que este caso riesga de convertirse en algo como el caso Dreyfus de España, pero ya a la altura del año 2010 del siglo veintiuno.

Es lamentable que un judicatura altamente politizada no aprecie el importe histórico de lo que está haciendo. Bien que llegara a absolver a Garzón, en última instancia, el daño a la credibilidad del Poder Judicial español y a la sociedad española ya se habrá producido.

Es una pena.

El Observador Incisivo
(The Trenchant Observer)

Véase también www.congarzón.com.

August 20, 1968 — “Dubček, Svoboda!”

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Alexander DubcekPersonal Takes

I had a picture of Alexander Dubček on my wall when I was a student studying international law. He represented the hope of many in Czechoslovakia and beyond that the communist party might evolve from within. He and the President of Czechoslovakia, Ludvik Svoboda (whose last name meant “freedom” in Czech), were for a brief moment during “the Prague Spring” the team that stood for the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, within a communist party and under a communist government.

The threat was too great for the leaders of the Soviet Union, and after a summer of feints and betrayals and illusions, they sent their tanks across the frontier into the sovereign territory of Czechoslovakia, on August 20, 1968.

29 years earlier, Adolph Hitler had sent his tanks into Prague, following the betrayal of Chamberlain at Munich which recognized the annexation of the Sudetenland, an area of Czechoslovakia settled by ethnic Germans.

In March 1938, the linking together or annexation (“Anschluss”) of Austria was consummated at the barrel of a gun. The infamous Munich Pact followed on September 30, ceding the Sudetenland to Germany. On March 15, 1939 Germany invaded and took direct control of the rest of Czechoslovakia. The invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, followed months later, setting off World War II.

These events, for a young international lawyer, seemed together to define the core values of the structure and body of international law and institutions, which had begun following a terrible “world war” in the 17th century, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which at the Peace of Westphalia and through the pen of Hugo Grotius gave birth to the modern system of nation states and to the basic framework of principles and norms of international law.

The devastation and suffering that took place during The Thirty Years’ War underlined the need for rules governing the relations of princes and states. Three centuries later Hitler’s Anschluss and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia defined, in a sense, the core values of international law.

Those core values, which had become clear by the 20th century, included the sanctity of the human person and the principle prohibiting the threat or use of force against the political independence or territorial integrity of any state, except in self defense.

These values were defined by their utter violation, in much the same way that Albert Camus found that moral values were created by their brutal violation by Hitler’s armies and the Gestapo before and during World War II. Camus, who as editor of the French resistance newspaper Libération was a leader in the French resistance, articulated–particularly in “The Rebel” and his novel “The Plague”—a vision of how values acquired their substance and contours not through abstract logic, but more directly through the experience of the horrors of their violation.

So today, on August 20, 2010, let us salute the courage of Dubček and Svoboda in their struggle to put “a human face” on socialism. Years later, their countryman, Václav Havel, gave expression to the dream of freedom of the Prague Spring generation in a voice that resonated through Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and throughout the world. Havel became President of Czechoslovakia as a result of “the Velvet Revolution” in 1989.

I remember how in 1968, after the Soviet tanks had crushed the Prague Spring and the autonomous government of Alexander Dubček, it occurred to me that if there were ever a reform from within the Communist party led by a Soviet Dubček, there would be no Soviet tanks to crush the reform. As it turned out, I was only half right. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev, introducing glasnost and perestroika, led such a reform. Boris Yeltsin put down the reaction by overcoming tanks in 1991, leading to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

For insight into the Prague Spring, see Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), and the 1988 American movie of the same title, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com
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Comments are invited.