Bringing War Criminals To Justice

Earlier today the European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously in favor of Khaled el-Masri, a German man abducted in Macededonia and tortured by the CIA.

It’s a very big deal. From a press release from the UN Rapporteur on Torture: 

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson today welcomed the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the Al-Masri case as “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush administration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture”. The Court upheld the complaint of Khaled Al-Masri, a German citizen, that he had been illegally seized and abused by Macedonian authorities in 2004, and handed over to the CIA, who had mistakenly identified him as a member of Al Qaida.

The Court held that he had been arbitrarily detained and subjected to so-called “capture shock” techniques by the CIA which amounted to “torture”. The Court found that he was then flown by the CIA to Afghanistan, where he was unlawfully detained and abused, physically and mentally, by US officials for several months, before being flown on a clandestine flight to Albania where he was dumped by the side of a road by US officials… Mr. Emmerson announced that he would be making a detailed report about the case, and other attempts to secure accountability for crimes committed by the CIA and its proxies, to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2013.

By this ruling, Macedonia is required to compensate al-Masri and re-open the case. But Macedonia, of course, was just a puppet of the US in this act of illegal inhumanity, and it’s the US that is ultimately responsible.

More to the point, some of the techniques ruled illegal by the European Court include the CIA’s preparation for rendition tactics, some of which are still embraced and used by the US Justice Department. At some point, the US’s actions as a rogue, torture state under Bush and Cheney would have to emerge as counter to the law of our closest allies, and to Western jurisprudence and civilization in general. So now, we will see how complicit our current president wants to be in perpetuating and legitimizing war crimes, in defiance of the Geneva Conventions:

The A.C.L.U. is representing Mr. Masri in a case against the United States now before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The petition was filed in 2008 and the United States government has yet to respond.

But the major point here is that the European Court of Human Rights – representing countless key allies – has named the US as a country that has practiced torture, in violation of its Treaty obligations, and international and domestic law. War crimes were permitted and committed and a country that allows war crimes to go unpunished has essentially abandoned the rule of law. When will Obama reinstate that rule of law? He has constantly said he wants to look forward, not back. But the US and the West cannot move forward until we have looked back, and repaired the breach in civilization and law that president George W. Bush created.