Posts Tagged ‘Torture’

Obama: “We tortured some folks…It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks (our law enforcement and our national security teams) were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.” (full transcript)

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Developing

Excerpt from President Barack Obama’s press conference today, Fiday, August 1, 2014:

Q What about John Brennan?

THE PRESIDENT:

On Brennan and the CIA, the RDI report has been transmitted, the declassified version that will be released at the pleasure of the Senate committee.

I have full confidence in John Brennan. I think he has acknowledged and directly apologized to Senator Feinstein that CIA personnel did not properly handle an investigation as to how certain documents that were not authorized to be released to the Senate staff got somehow into the hands of the Senate staff. And it’s clear from the IG report that some very poor judgment was shown in terms of how that was handled. Keep in mind, though, that John Brennan was the person who called for the IG report, and he’s already stood up a task force to make sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved.

With respect to the larger point of the RDI report itself, even before I came into office I was very clear that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.

I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this. And it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had. And a lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots.

But having said all that, we did some things that were wrong. And that’s what that report reflects. And that’s the reason why, after I took office, one of the first things I did was to ban some of the extraordinary interrogation techniques that are the subject of that report.

And my hope is, is that this report reminds us once again that the character of our country has to be measured in part not by what we do when things are easy, but what we do when things are hard. And when we engaged in some of these enhanced interrogation techniques, techniques that I believe and I think any fair-minded person would believe were torture, we crossed a line. And that needs to be — that needs to be understood and accepted. And we have to, as a country, take responsibility for that so that, hopefully, we don’t do it again in the future.

–Transcript, Press Conference by the President, White House, James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, August 1, 2014 (2:45 P.M. EDT). The text of the transcipt is found here.

It’s hard to know what is more shocking: 1) the casual language the President used in admitting torture; 2) what he actually said (calling torturers “real patriots”; or 3) the fact that he seemed totally oblivious to the import and impact of what he was saying.

The Trenchant Observer

Torture and torture memos pose serious obstacle to confirmation of Carolyn Krass as CIA General Counsel

Friday, December 20th, 2013

The Trenchant Observer noted, quite some time ago, that torture will not be done with Obama, or with us, until we are all done with torture.

See The Trenchant Observer, “The Clock is Ticking: U.S. Application of the Torture Convention,” February 10, 2010.

That is because torture is an international crime, and there is no way it can be simply forgotten without first going through a process involving publication and admission of the facts and a judicial process or transitional justice process under judicial oversight.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the Senate Intelligence Committee is now demanding public release of a 6,000 page classified report containing the details of the Bush Adninistration’s torture policy and its implementation, and release of the legal memoranda prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department purporting to uphold the legality of the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

It is of course not inevitable that this step in the justice process take place at this precise time, but rather only that–in a democracy–it will take place sooner or later.

What is going on in the Carolyn Krass confirmation hearings to be the top lawyer at the CIA is that the Senate Intelligence Committee is — finally — insisting that the secret legal memoranda that were used to justify the use of torture as an official policy of the United States be turned over to the Committee.

Those who apparently had knowledge of the program–CIA Director John Brennan first and foremost among them–are fighting tooth and nail to prevent the public release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report.

See “Editorial: Release the Torture Reports,” New York Times, December 19, 2013.

Much is at stake, including the core priniples of a democratic state governed by law, which require public legal justification of state actions, including those that are carried out in secret.

See

Spencer Ackerman (Washington), “Senate intelligence committee presses CIA to release torture report; Secret 6,300-page report details ‘enhanced interrogation’; “Lawyer nomination brings contention into public view,” The Guardian, December 20, 2013 (11.40 EST).

“The Carolyn Krass nomination to be General Counsel at the CIA, secret legal justifications and memos, and democratic government under the rule of law,” The Trenchant Observer, December 18, 2013 (updated December 19, 2013).

“Senate confirms John Brennan as CIA Director—with tally and breakdown of vote,” The Trenchant Observer, March 8, 2013.

“Brennan’s wristbands, McCain’s hold, and assertions of legality under international law based on secret operations and secret legal memoranda (with links to Brennan confirmation hearing video, transcript, and written questions and answers),”The Trenchant Observer, February 25, 2013.

“Secret Laws, the John Brennan vote, and the rule of law,” The Trenchant Observer, February 24, 2013.

The Senate Intelligence Committee now has an opportunity to take a major step toward restoration of the full rule of law in the United States.

The Trenchant Observer

The vote on John Brennan’s confirmation to be CIA Director: Opinion and Commentary

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Recent Commentary and Opinion

“It is not going too far to say that American foreign policy has become completely subservient to tactical domestic political considerations.”

This stern verdict comes from Vali Nasr, who spent two years working for the Obama administration before becoming dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In a book called “The Dispensable Nation,” to be published in April, Nasr delivers a devastating portrait of a first-term foreign policy that shunned the tough choices of real diplomacy, often descended into pettiness, and was controlled “by a small cabal of relatively inexperienced White House advisers.”

–Roger Cohen, “Beltway Foreign Policy,” New York Times,
February 18, 2013

Shaun Waterman, “Vote on Brennan for CIA post put off; On Benghazi attack, questions remain, “The Washington Times, February 27, 2012.

Dana Milbank, “‘Trust me’ is not enough on drone warfare,” The Washington Post, February 8, 2023 (02:38 PM EST)

Glenn Greenwald. “Debating Zero Dark Thirty and John Brennan; Both the critics’ favorite film of 2012 as well as Obama’s nominee for CIA Director are supporters of torture,” The Guardian, January 8, 2013 (18.01 EST)

See also the following articles by the Trenchant Observer:

What difference does it make if John Brennan is confirmed?
February 27, 2013

Brennan’s wristbands, McCain’s hold, and assertions of legality under international law based on secret operations and secret legal memoranda (with links to Brennan confirmation hearing video, transcript, and written questions and answers)
February 25, 2013

Secret Laws, the John Brennan vote, and the rule of law
February 24, 2013

Imagine: The Collapse of International Order, Syria, and Berlin in 1945
February 20, 2013

Brennan unclear in confirmation hearing as to whether “waterboarding” constitutes “torture” (with transcript)—The John Brennan File #2
February 14, 2013

Drone Killings, the Constitution, International Law, and the John Brennan File
February 7, 2013

The Trenchant Observer

Isolationism, with drones: Obama’s second-term foreign policy

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Developing story

The smartest man in the room is so intellectually insecure that he doesn’t like to be questioned, and insists that everyone recognize that he is the smartest man in the room, any room.

So, the new foreign policy team the President has chosen are men who are not likely to confront the president with ideas, policies, or proposals that contradict his own.

Joe Biden remains as Vice President, and the resident  foreign policy expert in the White House to whom Obama can turn for advice outside the normal channels.

Tom Donilon keeps his job as National Security Adviser. Donilon is extremely close to Biden.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) as Secretary of State will be forever grateful that he was chosen for this position. The only question is whether his enthusiasm for Obama’s foreign policy could weaken if the president doesn’t follow his advice, or accord him due respect.  Will he be allowed into “the inner circle”, or will he remain an “outsider”?  Will the generational differences lead to dismissive behavior by the younger “Obamians” whose hubris reflects and is second only to that of the president?  Will they treat Kerry like they did Richard Holbrooke?   Will he be at the center of decision making, or reduced by the end of his term to circling the globe, visiting exotic foreign countries, like Hillary Clinton?

If, on the other hand, Obama really listens to and works with Kerry as a trusted partner, in fact and on an everyday basis, Kerry could surprise us and become an outstanding Secretary of State. He was the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2004, after all. He has been the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committe for many years. He even speaks French, which won’t help him with the “know nothings” in the Republican party, but which could be a considerable asset on the diplomatic circuit.

Former Senator Chuck Hagel is something of a cypher.  As Secretary of Defense, he should go along with defense cuts, and probably not make any suggestions that sharply contradict the President’s thinking. He can be expected to share Obama’s caution on getting militarily involved in places like Syria, for example.  The big question is how he will get along with the military, both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the uniformed officers at the Pentagon, during a time of cuts and potentially wrenching developments in Afghanistan, where many have served believing in America’s mission there. His former service in combat should serve him well.

He will be put to the test as events unfold.  How might he respond to a collapse of the government in Afghanistan, if one occurs, or naval incidents between China and Japan near islands in dispute? How will he react as the catastrophe in Syria continues to unfold?

He has an independent streak. As with Kerry, much will depend on his developing relationship with Obama, and their day-to-day interaction.

As for John Brennan, Obama’s choice to head the CIA, one can appreciate the benefit to the country of his leaving the White House, where he and Obama have been executing the targeted killing strategy with drone attacks and special forces operations. On the other hand, his past at the CIA should be carefully scrutinized for complicity in torture, as well as in extraordinary renditions.

Moreover, his actions in managing the “kill lists” and targeted killing programs run out of or orchestrated by the White House should be thoroughly and formally investigated by the Senate before he is confirmed. These programs often operate well outside the limits of international law. We have only journalists’ accounts, usually based on anonymous sources, to give us any idea of what is going on.

The American people, in the American democracy which is supposed to be governed by the rule of law, deserve to know more–from official sources–about what actions are being carried out in their name. Other nations also have a strong interest in knowing what actions are being carried out, and the legal justifications under international law that are being advanced to support their legitimacy.

Is it better to get Brennan out of the White House, and pulling Obama out of some meeting or dinner to go off and execute a targeted killing by drone  operation, or to get someone to lead the CIA who is both capable of leading the changes that are necessary—get out of tactical warfare, and restore human and analytical intelligence capabilities that have atrophied, on the one hand, and untarnished by allleged involvement in torture, extraordinary renditions, or drone operations violating international law, on  the other?

To be sure, there is  a presumption of innocence regarding the above, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a new CIA director untainted by the past, and with fresh views undistorted by 25 years of experience at the Agency?

If Brennan is confirmed, his extremely close relationship with the president will give him great influence, both in the White House and within the CIA.  But it is hard to believe that, with his background, he could get the agency out of the drone business, or rebuild its primary human and analytical capabilities.

In the end, Obama will be running his foreign policy directly, with no one on his team who is likely to be able or willing to question his judgment. Much will depend on the degree to which Obama empowers Kerry and Hagel to challenge him.  Anything is possible, but on the record this does not appear likely.

In view of the above, the new team is not likely to exercise  independent initiative, but rather to simply promote Obama’s positions on foreign policy, which will most probably be a continuation of what we’ve seen in the last four years minus the “surge” in Afghanistan.

Look actively for symptoms of “groupthink” in the new team’s policies and actions.

Look for an extreme reluctance to use traditional military force, “regardless of the consequences”.

Instead, watch for continued and increased  use of “targeted killings” by drone attacks and special forces operations, without regard for the sovereignty of the target state involved, or the legality of such operations under international law.

Don’t expect any grand strategy to emanate from the White House, whether on global warming, nuclear proliferation, or approaches to new governments in the Arab world.

Don’t expect any significant new initiatives with respect to the promotion of human rights, the strengthening of civil society, or actions to strengthen democracy and the rule of law in Africa, Latin America, the  countries of the former Soviet Union, or elsewhere.

Don’t look for the president to develop a sudden interest in observing and strengthening international law and institutions.

Don’t look for Obama to secure the adoption of any significant multilateral treaties.  His reputed dream of a major nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, even if agreed, is not likely to be ratified by the Senate. In December, he was unable to achieve even ratification of a U.N. treaty protecting the rights of disabled individuals.

It is kind of tragic to have a president who, though he was president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, doesn’t understand or have a healthy respect for internationl law and institutions.

So don’t expect President Obama to push for ratification of the American Convention on Human Rights (to which members of the Organization of American States are parties), or the Statute of the International Criminal Court, or the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

Of course, we may expect to hear lofty speeches from time to  time, as we did in the last four years. But look for the actions that support the noble ideas expressed in the speeches, such as the actual levels of foreign assistance funding dedicated to the promotion of democracy and the rule of law in different countries.

Obama’s foreign policy in the next four years could turn out to be as disastrous and ineffective as U.S. policy toward Syria has been in the last two years.  Obama will continue to drive from the back seat, guided by highly abstract conceptions regarding foreign policy issues.  Specific decisions will be taken on the basis of ad hoc considerations, couched in abstract ideas regarding matters on the ground as seen from 30,000 feet.

Policy will not change in response to public criticism and suggestions, though it could occasionally be modified in response to stiff resistance from other states.

Now that the 2012 election is behind him, Obama doesn’t need to accede to military pressures in places like Afghanistan, as he did with the “surge” in 2009-2010.

The road is clear for him to pursue a withdrawal from the world in economic and military terms.

He is essentially a “domestic” president, with little real interest or passion for world affairs. This will be reflected in his foreign policy, at least until a deadlock blocking further domestic action leads him to look for foreign policy achievements in the latter part of his second term.  These will not be easy to obtain, as the groundwork will not have been laid in the first six years.

In conclusion, Obama’s foreign policy for the next four years is likely to be one that can be summed up as,

“Isolationism, with drones.”

The Trenchant Observer

REPRISE: “A time to break silence”: Dr. King on the Vietnam war, and President Carter on America’s human rights violations

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

[This is a lengthy article. The reader may wish to read it, and listen to the recordings, in three parts.]

Originally published June 27, 2012 (revised June 28, 2012)

“And I’ve long since learned that to be a follower (of) Jesus Christ means taking up the cross. And my bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it–bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam,” Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.

There is a powerful connection between the April, 1967 sermons on Vietnam of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Jimmy Carter’s recent New York Times op-ed piece on American human rights violations, and the policies currently being carried out by President Barack Obama. It is important to understand this connection, details of which are set forth below.

I. Jimmy Carter’s Op-Ed in the New York Times, Criticizing America’s Violations of Human Rights

Ex-president Jimmy Carter published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on June 24, in which he hashly criticized President Obama, and also former president Bush, for “the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade, (which) has been a dramatic change from the past, signifying the fact that “the United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”

See Jimmy Carter, “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” New York Times (op-ed), June 24, 2012.

Carter continued,

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

These policies and actions, he wrote, signaled “a dramatic change from the past”, when the United States exercised bold leadership in securing the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Its adoption, wrote Carter,

…was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs.

But, he continued,

It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

He noted further, that

(R)ecent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications…

Carter harshly criticized the use of drone attacks, writing that

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies were counterproductive in terms of American foreign policy, he observed, noting that

Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

The 39th president of the United States also criticized the fact that the Guantánamo Bay facility remains open, with 169 prisoners still detained there. While “about half have been cleared for release,” their chances of ever obtaining their freedom are slim, he asserted.

Some of those being tried have been tortured, Carter noted, writing:

American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security”. Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

In conclusion, former president Carter argued,

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

U.S. violation of international human rights is counterproductive, he asserted, because it “abets our enemies and alienates our friends.” As “concerned citizens”, we must now persuade Washington “to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.”

This forceful critique of American human rights violations made by Jimmy Carter, the American president most closely associated with U.S. leadership in the field of human rights, will undoubtedly have a significant impact over time, both abroad and at home.

II. Dr. King and Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence—Bearing the Cross for Truth, Justice and Peace

When I read ex-President Jimmy Carter’s op-ed piece in the New York Times on June 24, calling out President Barack Obama for his human rights violations, both domestic and foreign, I was reminded of the afternoon I was driving in my car and first heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a Nobel Prize winner, deliver a powerful speech criticizing President Johnson and his conduct of the Vietnam war.

The feeling then, in 1967, was one of enormous relief. At last there was a figure of great and almost unparalleled national and international prominence, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, who had the courage to speak the truth as he saw it, according to his best lights, and his deep faith, however unpopular that truth might be.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave two sermons on Vietnam in April, 1967. The first, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” is a detailed but courageous speech that draws on many of the details of the history of Vietnam and the war which were familiar to his audience. It is delivered in a calm, reasoned tone. The second, a sermon delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where he was pastor, is a strong sermon delivered in the cadences of the powerful preacher who King was. Entitled, “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam,” it hits the main points of the April 4 sermon, with greater emotional emphasis. It is probably more accessible to readers and listeners not familiar with the history and details of the Vietnam conflict. Links to both are found below. See

Rev. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City).

The text is found here.

The audio is found here.

David Bromwich, “Martin Luther King’s Speech Against the Vietnam War,” Antiwar.com, May 16, 2008 (summary and analysis, with extensive excerpts).

See also:

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam,” Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, April 30, 1967. Excerpts from the audio and text are found here.

The complete audio (in RealAudio) is found here.

The original written text is found here.

NOTE: The two sermons are often confused, with the audio for the April 30 sermon often being attributed to the April 4 “Beyond Vietnam” sermon.

“The Obamians”, as James Mann has termed President Obama and his younger group of closest foreign policy advisers, in his new and revealing book on the foreign policy team in the White House, would especially benefit from listening to King’s speech, and his April 30, 1967 sermon. Their eyes reportedly glaze over when other advisers, usually older, refer to the Vietnam war and its lessons. They, and particularly the most important Obamian, President Obama himself, should listen to Martin Luther King’s speech and sermon, and reflect on what they hear, taking the moral authority of the speaker into account.

They might also bear in mind and take to heart the famous dictum,

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George de Sanayana, from “Life of Reason I”).

Mann’s book is fascinating. See

The Obanians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power (Viking Penguin/The Penguin Group, 2012)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, exactly one year after his speech or sermon entitled, “”Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”

III. Jimmy Carter’s Contribution to Human Rights

Jimmy Carter’s op-ed piece should grab the public’s attention in the United States.

But the coverage in the U.S. press suggests the public may have become far too accustomed to the targeted killings, or “assassinations” in the words of Jimmy Carter–which is the correct term when the killings are conducted outside the framework of international law, far too accustomed to the debate over the efficacy of torture, far too complacent over the violation of bedrock principles of the U.S. Constitution, to pay much attention.

The press reaction in different countries is quite revealing, even if it takes a lot of work to uncover, due to the “filter bubble” Google and most other search engines now use, displaying search results only from our own country and in our own language. If you are in the United States and Google “Jimmy Carter” you won’t see the incisive articles published in the United Kingdom in The Guardian, The Telegraph or The Independent. You’ll see articles and blogs published in the United States.

We now live in information ghettos, where the opinions of those in other countries are filtered out of our consciousness. Moreover, due to the use of our previous search histories to filter the results that are displayed in, e.g., a Google search, within this subset of news and opinion we may even see news that leans more to the left or the right, depending on who we have read in the past.

Jimmy Carter has demonstrated in his op-ed that there are still Democrats in the United States with the courage to defend our civil liberties, and to fight for a foreign policy based on furthering human rights and democracy abroad, and compliance with the basic norms of international law, including those relating to human rights.

When historians of the future write about this period, they may mention Jimmy Carter’s op-ed piece, and wonder how the people of this time in the U.S. went along with such egregious violations of the U.S. constitution and the most fundamental norms of international law.

Now the question is whether others will have the courage to speak out, even if the president committing these violations is from their own party–and the party they want to win in the November elections.

It is a stark moral choice. Listen to the audio of Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech and especially to the audio of his April 30, 1967 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He speaks of stark moral choices.

One is reminded not only of Martin Luther King, Jr., but also of those other defenders of civil liberties and democracy, such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Vacslav Havel, and Lech Walensa. One is also reminded of humanity’s project of building international peace through the establishment of international law and institutions, and compliance with their norms.

In the field of human rights, President Jimmy Carter was one of those men. His support of human rights started a process in Latin America (and elsewhere) which led to the end of dictatorships and authoritarian rule, and the gradual consolidation of democracy throughout the hemisphere.

His push for human rights led to the ratifications of the American Convention on Human Rights which resulted in its entry into force on July 18, 1978. His support of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the establishment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José Costa Rica, pursuant to the provisions of the American Convention, strengthened in the Americas a system of international protection of human rights similar in form to that established in Europe under the European Convention on Human Rights, in force since 1953.

Regrettably, the United States has never ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, which President Jimmy Carter signed and submitted to the Senate for ratification. Nonetheless, the U.S. is still bound to observe the rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights of Man, adopted by the members of the newly founded Organization of American States in Bogotá in April, 1948, months before the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 of that year.

But the Inter-American system was called upon to protect human rights in the face of social and political realities that were vastly different from those in Europe in 1978, though one must recall that the European system too had its origins in tumultuous times following the end of World War II. The European Convention entered into force on September 3, 1953, establishing a Commission which functioned until 1998, and the European Court of Human Rights to which citizens since 1998 may now appeal directly without going through the Commission, which was abolished in 1998.

The Inter-American system, with that of Europe, also set a powerful example for Africa, which adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which entered into force on October 21, 1986. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has established an important body of precedent, and now the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, created pursuant to a protocol to the Charter which entered into effect on January 25, 2005, has also been established, and may one day soon merge with the African Court of Justice. The African Commission and Court are having an increasing impact on the achievement and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law on the continent.

All three of these regional systems were inspired by, and gave further expression to, the ideals and norms contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Worth noting is that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on December 10 of each year.

In supporting these developments, and continuing his struggle for democracy and human rights since he left office in January, 1981, Jimmy Carter deserves the most profound respect and thanks of the world community, including the people of the United States. During his time in office, while mistakes were made, he carried forward the torch of human rights. For his work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

For speaking out now against violations of the most fundamental norms of human rights and international law, and even and particularly when those violations were and are committed by his own government, Jimmy Carter deserves our highest praise.

Thank you, President Carter.

And thank you, Dr. King. For your example, moral clarity, and courage, which we hope will guide us now.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
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Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls for prosecution of Blair and Bush for Iraq invasion; Torture investigations end in U.S.

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

South African Archbishop Tutu Withdraws from Conference, Suggests Blair and Bush should be Prosecuted for Invasion of Iraq

Former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the renowned anti-apartheid leader and recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, has written an op-ed piece in The Observer explaining why he withdrew from attending the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg last week, a conference attended by Tony Blair.

“As the date drew nearer, I felt an increasingly profound sense of discomfort about attending a summit on “leadership” with Mr Blair. I extend my humblest and sincerest apologies to Discovery, the summit organisers, the speakers and delegates for the lateness of my decision not to attend.”

–Desmond Tutu, “Why I had no choice but to spurn Tony Blair; “I couldn’t sit with someeone who justified the invasion of Iraq with a lie,” The Observer, September 1, 2012 (opinion).

See also Tony Helm (Political Editor) “Tony Blair should face trial over Iraq war, says Desmond TutuAnti-apartheid hero attacks former prime minister over ‘double standards on war crimes’”, The Guardian, September 1, 2012.

In his op-ed piece, Archbishop Tutu wrote:

The immorality of the United States and Great Britain’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.

Instead of recognising that the world we lived in, with increasingly sophisticated communications, transportations and weapons systems necessitated sophisticated leadership that would bring the global family together, the then-leaders of the US and UK fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand – with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us.

Explaining that he had called Condolezza Rice on the eve of the invasion asking for more time for the U.N. weapons insprectors to complete their tasks, and that she had responded that there wasn’t enough time, the former Archbiship of Cape Town asked, “If leaders may lie, then who should tell the truth?”

The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate continued:

The cost of the decision to rid Iraq of its by-all-accounts despotic and murderous leader has been staggering, beginning in Iraq itself. Last year, an average of 6.5 people died there each day in suicide attacks and vehicle bombs, according to the Iraqi Body Count project. More than 110,000 Iraqis have died in the conflict since 2003 and millions have been displaced. By the end of last year, nearly 4,500 American soldiers had been killed and more than 32,000 wounded.

On these grounds alone, in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague.

Returning to the theme of why he had withdrawn from the conference, Archbishop Tutu argued,

Leadership and morality are indivisible. Good leaders are the custodians of morality. The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level.

If it is acceptable for leaders to take drastic action on the basis of a lie, without an acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out, what should we teach our children?

My appeal to Mr Blair is not to talk about leadership, but to demonstrate it….

U.S. Attorney Gerneral Announces End of Last Torture Investigations

Ironically, just days earlier, on August 30, 2012, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the last torture investigations had been concluded, and that the last few individuals under investigation would not be prosecuted.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Thursday that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of a prisoner in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A.

–Scott Shane, ” No Charges Filed on Harsh Tactics Used by the C.I.A., New York Times, August 30, 2012.

See also

“Justice Department Ends Investigation on Alleged Use of Torture by CIA,” PBS Newshour, August 31, 2012.

“ACLU Comment on Closure of Justice Department’s CIA Torture Investigation,” ACLU.org, August 30, 2012.

The Trenchant Observer, previous articles on torture (find using the SEARCH box in the upper right-hand corner of the home page).

As a result of Holder’s decision, domestic investigations into the Bush torture policy and those responsible for torture as it is defined in the U.N. Convention Against Torture have now concluded, opening the way for other countries to apprehend and try U.S. officials responsible for torture when they are found within their jurisdiction.

The outrageous irony here is that Holder has concluded that not even these lower-level officials can be prosecuted due to the lack of sufficient “admissible evidence” to secure a conviction. In the United States justice system, evidence obtained through the use of torture is not admissible, and evidence relating to the administration of such torture may not be admissible because it is “classified”. If this phalanx of legal defenses is not sufficient to bar prosecution, the government can always invoke the relatively new state secrets doctrine in order to secure the dismissal of the case.

So, this U.S. administration is not going to prosecute those responsible for the Bush torture policy or for carrying it out. As the Attorney General previously announced, the Justice Department excluded from its investigations all cases where the acts using so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture under the terms of the U.N. Convention on Torture) were carried out pursuant to legal guidance by the Department of Justice.

Until reversed, these decisions stand for the acceptance by the United States of the “due obedience” defense to international crimes.

This defense was explicitly rejected at Nuremberg, in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and in numerous prosecutions against those responsible for international crimes in a number of countries and before a number of international tribunals.

It is a shameful policy for the United States to uphold.

Now, over the coming years and decades, it will fall upon the initiative of other countries which are parties to the U.N. Convention Against Torture to bring to justice those responsible for the torture policy of the Bush years.

Bush administration officials involved in those policies and their execution desiring to avoid accountability under international law would be well-advised to carefully consider their foreign travel plans in the future.

The Trenchant Observer

“A time to break silence”: Dr. King on the Vietnam war, and President Carter on America’s human rights violations (revised June 28)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

“And I’ve long since learned that to be a follower (of) Jesus Christ means taking up the cross. And my bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, there is the cross that we must bear. Let us bear it–bear it for truth, bear it for justice, and bear it for peace. Let us go out this morning with that determination. And I have not lost faith. I’m not in despair, because I know that there is a moral order. I haven’t lost faith, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam,” Sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.

There is a powerful connection between the April, 1967 sermons on Vietnam of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President Jimmy Carter’s recent New York Times op-ed piece on American human rights violations, and the policies currently being carried out by President Barack Obama. It is important to understand this connection, details of which are set forth below.

I. Jimmy Carter’s Op-Ed in the New York Times, Criticizing America’s Violations of Human Rights

Ex-president Jimmy Carter published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times on June 24, in which he hashly criticized President Obama, and also former president Bush, for “the widespread abuse of human rights over the last decade, (which) has been a dramatic change from the past, signifying the fact that “the United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.”

See Jimmy Carter, “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” New York Times (op-ed), June 24, 2012.

Carter continued,

Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.

These policies and actions, he wrote, signaled “a dramatic change from the past”, when the United States exercised bold leadership in securing the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, as “the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Its adoption, wrote Carter,

…was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure people, and it established equal rights of all people to life, liberty, security of person, equal protection of the law and freedom from torture, arbitrary detention or forced exile.

The declaration has been invoked by human rights activists and the international community to replace most of the world’s dictatorships with democracies and to promote the rule of law in domestic and global affairs.

But, he continued,

It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles, our government’s counterterrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.

Recent legislation has made legal the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely on suspicion of affiliation with terrorist organizations or “associated forces,” a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress (the law is currently being blocked by a federal judge). This law violates the right to freedom of expression and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty, two other rights enshrined in the declaration.

He noted further, that

(R)ecent laws have canceled the restraints in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications…

Carter harshly criticized the use of drone attacks, writing that

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

These policies were counterproductive in terms of American foreign policy, he observed, noting that

Top intelligence and military officials, as well as rights defenders in targeted areas, affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organizations, aroused civilian populations against us and permitted repressive governments to cite such actions to justify their own despotic behavior.

The 39th president of the United States also criticized the fact that the Guantánamo Bay facility remains open, with 169 prisoners still detained there. While “about half  have been cleared for release,” their chances of ever obtaining their freedom are slim, he asserted.

Some of those being tried have been tortured, Carter noted, writing:

American authorities have revealed that, in order to obtain confessions, some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. Astoundingly, these facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of “national security”. Most of the other prisoners have no prospect of ever being charged or tried either.

In conclusion, former president Carter argued,

At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

U.S. violation of international human rights is counterproductive, he asserted, because it “abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”  As “concerned citizens”, we must now persuade Washington “to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years.”

This forceful critique of American human rights violations made by Jimmy Carter, the American president most closely associated with U.S. leadership in the field of human rights, will undoubtedly have a significant impact over time, both abroad and at home.

II. Dr. King and Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence—Bearing the Cross for Truth, Justice and Peace

When I read ex-President Jimmy Carter’s op-ed piece in the New York Times on June 24, calling out President Barack Obama for his human rights violations, both domestic and foreign, I was reminded of the afternoon I was driving in my car and first heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., also a Nobel Prize winner, deliver a powerful speech criticizing President Johnson and his conduct of the Vietnam war.

The feeling then, in 1967, was one of enormous relief. At last there was a figure of great and almost unparalleled national and international prominence, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, who had the courage to speak the truth as he saw it, according to his best lights, and his deep faith, however unpopular that truth might be.

Martin Luther King, Jr. gave two sermons on Vietnam in April, 1967. The first, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” is a detailed but courageous speech that draws on many of the details of the history of Vietnam and the war which were familiar to his audience. It is delivered in a calm, reasoned tone. The second, a sermon delivered at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where he was pastor, is a strong sermon delivered in the cadences of the powerful preacher who King was. Entitled, “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam,” it hits the main points of the April 4 sermon, with greater emotional emphasis. It is probably more accessible to readers and listeners not familiar with the history and details of the Vietnam conflict. Links to both are found below. See

Rev. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City).

The text is found here.

The audio is found here.

David Bromwich, “Martin Luther King’s Speech Against the Vietnam War,” Antiwar.com, May 16, 2008 (summary and analysis, with extensive excerpts).

See also:

Martin Luther King, Jr., “Why I am opposed to the war in Vietnam,” Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, April 30, 1967. Excerpts from the audio and text are found here.

The complete audio (in RealAudio) is found here.

The original written text is found here.

NOTE: The two sermons are often confused, with the audio for the April 30 sermon often being attributed to the April 4 “Beyond Vietnam” sermon.

“The Obamians”, as James Mann has termed President Obama and his younger group of closest foreign policy advisers, in his new and revealing book on the foreign policy team in the White House, would especially benefit from listening to King’s speech, and his April 30, 1967 sermon. Their eyes reportedly glaze over when other advisers, usually older, refer to the Vietnam war and its lessons. They, and particularly the most important Obamian, President Obama himself, should listen to Martin Luther King’s speech and sermon, and reflect on what they hear, taking the moral authority of the speaker into account.

They might also bear in mind and take to heart the famous dictum,

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George de Sanayana, from “Life of Reason I”).

Mann’s book is fascinating. See

The Obanians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power (Viking Penguin/The Penguin Group, 2012)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, exactly one year after his speech or sermon entitled, “”Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”

III. Jimmy Carter’s Contribution to Human Rights

Jimmy Carter’s op-ed piece should grab the public’s attention in the United States.

But the coverage in the U.S. press suggests the public may have become far too accustomed to the targeted killings, or “assassinations” in the words of Jimmy Carter–which is the correct term when the killings are conducted outside the framework of international law, far too accustomed to the debate over the efficacy of torture, far too complacent over the violation of bedrock principles of the U.S. Constitution, to pay much attention.

The press reaction in different countries is quite revealing, even if it takes a lot of work to uncover, due to the “filter bubble” Google and most other search engines now use, displaying search results only from our own country and in our own language. If you are in the United States and Google “Jimmy Carter” you won’t see the incisive articles published in the United Kingdom in The Guardian, The Telegraph or The Independent. You’ll see articles and blogs published in the United States.

We now live in information ghettos, where the opinions of those in other countries are filtered out of our consciousness. Moreover, due to the use of our previous search histories to filter the results that are displayed in, e.g., a Google search, within this subset of news and opinion we may even see news that leans more to the left or the right, depending on who we have read in the past.

Jimmy Carter has demonstrated in his op-ed that there are still Democrats in the United States with the courage to defend our civil liberties, and to fight for a foreign policy based on furthering human rights and democracy abroad, and compliance with the basic norms of international law, including those relating to human rights.

When historians of the future write about this period, they may mention Jimmy Carter’s op-ed piece, and wonder how the people of this time in the U.S. went along with such egregious violations of the U.S. constitution and the most fundamental norms of international law.

Now the question is whether others will have the courage to speak out, even if the president committing these violations is from their own party–and the party they want to win in the November elections.

It is a stark moral choice. Listen to the audio of Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech and especially to the audio of his April 30, 1967 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He speaks of stark moral choices.

One is reminded not only of Martin Luther King, Jr., but also of those other defenders of civil liberties and democracy, such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Vacslav Havel, and Lech Walensa. One is also reminded of humanity’s project of building international peace through the establishment of international law and institutions, and compliance with their norms.

In the field of human rights, President Jimmy Carter was one of those men. His support of human rights started a process in Latin America (and elsewhere) which led to the end of dictatorships and authoritarian rule, and the gradual consolidation of democracy throughout the hemisphere.

His push for human rights led to the ratifications of the American Convention on Human Rights which resulted in its entry into force on July 18, 1978. His support of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the establishment of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José Costa Rica, pursuant to the provisions of the American Convention, strengthened in the Americas a system of international protection of human rights similar in form to that established in Europe under the European Convention on Human Rights, in force since 1953.

Regrettably, the United States has never ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, which President Jimmy Carter signed and submitted to the Senate for ratification. Nonetheless, the U.S. is still bound to observe the rights set forth in the American Declaration of the Rights of Man, adopted by the members of the newly founded Organization of American States in Bogotá in April, 1948, months before the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10 of that year.

But the Inter-American system was called upon to protect human rights in the face of social and political realities that were vastly different from those in Europe in 1978, though one must recall that the European system too had its origins in tumultuous times following the end of World War II. The European Convention entered into force on September 3, 1953, establishing a Commission which functioned until 1998, and the European Court of Human Rights to which citizens since 1998 may now appeal directly without going through the Commission, which was abolished in 1998.

The Inter-American system, with that of Europe, also set a powerful example for Africa, which adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which entered into force on October 21, 1986. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has established an important body of precedent, and now the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, created pursuant to a protocol to the Charter which entered into effect on January 25, 2005, has also been established, and may one day soon merge with the African Court of Justice. The African Commission and Court are having an increasing impact on the achievement and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law on the continent.

All three of these regional systems were inspired by, and gave further expression to, the ideals and norms contained in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Worth noting is that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on December 10 of each year.

In supporting these developments, and continuing his struggle for democracy and human rights since he left office in January, 1981, Jimmy Carter deserves the most profound respect and thanks of the world community, including the people of the United States. During his time in office, while mistakes were made, he carried forward the torch of human rights. For his work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

For speaking out now against violations of the most fundamental norms of human rights and international law, and even and particularly when those violations were and are committed by his own government, Jimmy Carter deserves our highest praise.

Thank you, President Carter.

And thank you, Dr. King. For your example, moral clarity, and courage, which we hope will guide us now.

The Trenchant Observer

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

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then use the “Search” Box or consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here. The Articles on Targeted Killings page can also be found here.

After G-8 “agreement on Syria”, the fighting continues—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #41 (May 23) REVISED

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

G-8 Camp David Final Communique: Statement on Syria

1. We, the Leaders of the Group of Eight, met at Camp David on May 18 and 19, 2012 to address major global economic and political challenges.

31. We remain appalled by the loss of life, humanitarian crisis, and serious and widespread human rights abuses in Syria. The Syrian government and all parties must immediately and fully adhere to commitments to implement the six-point plan of UN and Arab League Joint Special Envoy (JSE) Kofi Annan, including immediately ceasing all violence so as to enable a Syrian-led, inclusive political transition leading to a democratic, plural political system. We support the efforts of JSE Annan and look forward to seeing his evaluation, during his forthcoming report to the UN Security Council, of the prospects for beginning this political transition process in the near-term. Use of force endangering the lives of civilians must cease. We call on the Syrian government to grant safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel to populations in need of assistance in accordance with international law. We welcome the deployment of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, and urge all parties, in particular the Syrian government, to fully cooperate with the mission. We strongly condemn recent terrorist attacks in Syria. We remain deeply concerned about the threat to regional peace and security and humanitarian despair caused by the crisis and remain resolved to consider further UN measures as appropriate.

–Camp David Declaration, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, May 19, 2012.

For quotes from President Obama at the G-8 summit relating to Syria, Russian statements affirming their position had been adopted, and commentary, see

The Trenchant Observer, “Obama clueless on Syria? G-8 endorses UN 6-point peace plan—Obama’s Debacle in Syria—Update #39 (May 21),” May 21, 2012.

Latest New Reports and Opinion

Syrian forces have resumed their attack on Rastan. AFP reports,

Soldiers were trying to overrun Rastan for the second time in 10 days, with shells crashing into the town at the rate of “one a minute” at one stage, according to the Britain-based watchdog.

An activist told AFP that Free Syrian Army fighters were defending Rastan’s entrances but that “regime forces are being strengthened with new deployments,” including from the elite Republican Guard.

“Electricity has been cut off in Rastan, and water tanks have been shelled,” said activist Abu Rawan. “There is also a severe lack of food because the market is closed and we can’t bring food in from nearby villages.”

Hours later, the activist said the army assault eased when a team of UN observers entered Rastan.

“The situation is calm now because the UN monitors have arrived” having heard the shelling, Abu Rawan told AFP, adding, however, “God protect us when they leave.”

On May 14, 23 soldiers were killed in a failed assault on the town, which straddles the main highway linking the capital to the north and where rebels regrouped from the battered city of Homs.

More than 12,600 people have been killed in the bloodshed, nearly 1,500 of them since a UN-backed truce took effect April 12, according to Observatory figures.

–AFP, “Syria assails rebel town, admits sanctions hurting,” The Daily Star, May 23, 2012 (09:52 PM).

On Tuesday, May 22, in al-Busaira, Syrian police forces fired into a crowd of several hundred people who had gathered to meet with the U.N. monitors, as the latter looked on. According to opposition reports, at least two people were killed.

Unter den Augen von UNO-Beobachtern sollen syrische Polizisten in eine Menschenmenge geschossen und zwei Personen getötet haben. Ein Vertreter der Opposition berichtete am Dienstag, in al-Busaira in der ost-syrischen Provinz Deir al-Zor seien Hunderte begeisterte Menschen aus ihren Häusern gestürmt, um die UNO-Beobachter zu begrüßen. “Binnen Minutenfrist gerieten sie ins Feuer”, sagte der Sprecher der überwiegend aus Deserteuren gebildeten Freien Syrischen Armee (FSA). Andere Informanten aus der Opposition sagten, die Regierungstruppen hätten mit Flugabwehrraketen in die Stadt geschossen.

–”Syrien: Bürger vor Augen von UN-Beobachtern getötet?; Syrische Sicherheitskräfte sollen in eine Menschenmenge geschossen haben, die die UNO-Beobachter begrüßen wollte,” Die Presse (Die Presse.com / Wien), 22 Mai 2012.

On Monday, May 21, some 38 people were killed in the fighting in Syria, according to opposition sources. These included 22 soldiers, 11 rebels, and 5 civilians.

“Fast 40 Menschen sterben bei Gefechten; Seit Mitte April herrscht in Syrien Waffenstillstand, doch die Gewalt bricht immer wieder aus: Am Montag wurden erneut viele Menschen getötet, Kriegsgerät soll zerstört worden sein. Uno-Generalsekretär Ban sieht die internationalen Friedensbemühungen an einem “kritischen Punkt”, Der Spiegel, 21 Mai 2012.

For an incisive overview of the current situation, stressing the need for urgent action including potentially military action, see Itamar Rabinovich, “The Anarchy Factor in Syria,” ISN Blog (ETH, Zurich), 23 May 2012.

Analysis

The theoretical U.N. ceasefire “agreed to” as part of the Security Council’s 6-point peace plan was never observed by al-Assad. It seems now that the rebels have resumed their attacks in earnest. Meanwhile, a third element–linked to al-Qaeda–appears to have entered the fray.

The situation is no longer “spinning out of control”. It is out of control. Whether the U.S., Europe and the Arab countries can act quickly enough to stem the tide is an open question.

Judging from the statements at the G-8 summit at Camp David, these key countries are still asleep. Whether there is more than meets the eye, beneath the surface, remains to be seen.

Publicly, the G-8 and NATO are obviously not paying attention and working hard to come up with new solutions. Such solutions would probably involve the credible threat or actual use of military force.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com
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For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

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)

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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).