Torture Should Be Accounted For

Torture is among the most heinous crimes known to humankind. It should never be excused, it should never go unpunished. It is not about who the tortured are, or what the tortured know. It is not about what they have done, what they believe, or whether they would do the same. It is about who we are, and how human beings should be treated. It is about our humanity, that is all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Letter

We have collected over a hundred signatures, and the letter will be mailed to the Hague. Thanks to all who signed.

The following is a letter which will be mailed to the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. Below the letter there is a sign up for leaving your name, email, and location for adding your name to the letter. The list of names will be printed with the letter when it is sent. If you wish to keep your information private, please check the private box at the sign-in after clicking "sign letter" (your name will still go on the hard copy letter). Please leave any organizations or credentials you want included with your name in the comments field there. Note that the letter identifies we who sign as "Americans".

Please report any problems by emailing me.


Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Prosecutor
International Criminal Court
P.O. Box

2500 CM, The Hague

Dear Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo,

We are writing to you to ask that you undertake an investigation of the government of the United States of America for the crimes of torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The Rome Statute provides that only the Security Council or one of the signatories may bring such charges, but also provides that the Prosecutor may do so if he finds grounds to, after an investigation, and provides that anyone may request that the prosecutor begin such an investigation. It is under this latter provision that we make this request. We are, as informed American citizens, too well aware that the United States is no longer a signatory to the Rome Statute. However, we believe that even so, the investigation itself, together with its findings, may have the power to push the United States Congress into action, and we believe that it will satisfy a necessary prerequisite for other signatories of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment (CATCIDT) to begin investigations and prosecutions to which they are entitled if the United States refuses to do so.

Evidence that torture has been committed is plentiful, and your office has examined some of it before, and had found that in specific, for crimes committed during the Iraq War that you could not prosecute because, while “…any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court is “grave”, the Statute requires an additional threshold of gravity even where the subject-matter jurisdiction is satisfied.” You observed that under Article 8(1), “the Court shall have jurisdiction in respect of war crimes in particular when committed as part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes”1.

Since that time, there has been further accumulation of evidence, and release of U.S. government documents and reports, committee hearings and testimony, and news reports, indicating that the commission of these acts was indeed part of a plan, and policy, that the plan carries at least the signatures of lawyers at the Department of Justice2 and the Department of Defense3, and of the Secretary of Defense4. Documentation exists from two news bureaus, ABC News5 and the Associated Press6, that the Principals group of the United States National Security Council, consisting of the Vice President, Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of the CIA, the Attorney General, and the National Security Advisor, met in the White House and approved techniques amounting to torture for specific prisoners in great detail. When questioned about this report, the President of the United States acknowledged that he both knew of and approved these meetings7.

Since that time there has also been further documentation of evidence: we call to your attention, most recently, the report of the Physicians for Human Rights, Broken Laws, Broken Lives8, and the report by Human Rights Watch, Locked Up Alone9. We also call to your attention the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General report, A Review of the FBI's Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Special Report10. There are many, many other sources, your office is no doubt aware of them, and we would be happy to do our part to find them for you as needed. The American Civil Liberties Union maintains a searchable repository of documents11 related to these matters obtained by Freedom of Information Act, as well.

The documentation flowing from the Office of Legal Council, and from the Counsel at the Department of Defense, leaves no doubt that these actions were planned and “approved”, that members of the government believed they were entitled to abrogate international treaties and redefine others, and that the procedures were generated and approved throughout the entire chain of command, with express approval for some of them by the President of the United States. There cannot be any doubt anymore that there are sufficient grounds for investigation and prosecution, given that the terms of Article 8(1) that the crimes were part of a “plan or policy” are satisfied by these documents, and this was the missing criterion before.

We would also like you to address the behavior of our government in the face of these credible allegations and reports. The United States Congress has repeatedly acted, by passing restrictions to the habeas corpus and to the War Crimes Act and Torture Act, in violation of their mandate under the treaties to investigate and prosecute, and can even be said to have shielded those who planned, and created policy, and committed these crimes from prosecution. The specific statutes are the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA), and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). Habeas corpus is a constitutional matter, but it is also a treaty obligation: We remind you that forms of this fundamental right are written into the Geneva Conventions and the CATCIDT, as well as into other treaties to which the United States is party, and its attempted circumscription in U.S. statute is very much part of the insulation from prosecution for these crimes. We would also remind you that the military commissions formed on the basis of the MCA are proceeding to trial, and intend to use coerced testimony, in violation of the CATCIDT.

The Congress of the United States is the body that prosecutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” of the office of the President, by independent prosecutors and by impeachment. They have repeatedly failed to do so, and instead have passed the aforementioned acts. We believe that they are in violation of the provisions, Articles 5, 6, and 7, and Articles 12, 13, 14, and 15 of the CATCIDT, and Articles 129, 130, and 131 of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 and Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which we believe require our Congress to effect such investigations and prosecutions with due respect for these treaties and with due haste. Therefore, we would ask that you further consider the role of the Congress in your investigation, and determine whether or not it has failed these obligations sufficiently as to indicate that the United States Government does not intend to prosecute war crimes in good faith.

We are American citizens, and it is painful to have to ask that our country be subject to the shame of having its government investigated for war crimes. We do recognize, however, that the only way for the United States to regain its good name, and it did once have a good name and still does in some matters of human rights and humanitarian law, is for those who have abused the power entrusted to them by the American people, and have perpetrated grave crimes on the citizens of other nations, to face justice. While we again acknowledge that the International Criminal Court does not have the power to do that, due to these same abusers removing our signature and refusing to ratify the Rome Statute, we feel nonetheless that an investigation and charges by your office will enable others to do what our representatives apparently cannot, and stop the downward spiral away from international law that our government is engaged in. There is ample reason to believe that the criminal abuse and torture continues, so this is something that must be done, and there will be consequences and victims if it is not done right away.

We thank you for your time and attention,

The Signing List is now closed

  1. Moreno-Ocampo, Luis. Letter Concerning the Situation in Iraq. The Hague, 9 February 2006, Page 8, paragraph 4, concerning Admissibility.
  2. Bybee, Jay S. (signature), written by John C. Yoo. Memorandum for Alberto Gonzales, Council to the President. August 1, 2002.
  3. Haynes II, William J., signed by Donald Rumsfeld. Action Memo. November 27, 2002.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Greenburg, Jan Crawford, Howard L. Rosenberg, and Ariane de Vogue. Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved ‘Enhanced Interrogation’. ABC News, April 9, 2008.
  6. Jordan, Lara Jakes. Cheney, Others OK’d Harsh Interrogations. Associated Press, April 10, 2008.
  7. Greenberg, Jan Crawford, Howard L. Rosenberg, and Ariane de Vogue. Bush Aware of Advisors Interrogation Talks. ABC News, April 11, 2008.
  8. Hashemian, Farnoosh, et alia. Broken Laws, Broken Lives. Physicians for Human Rights, June, 2008.
  9. Locked Up Alone: Detention Conditions and Mental Health at Guantanamo. Human Rights Watch, June, 2008.
  10. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General. A Review of the FBI’s Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq. May, 2008.
  11. American Civil Liberties Union archive, Torture FOIA: Other Key Documents.


The Reality Kid said...

I'm not an American, but I applaud your courage in taking this action and, more generally, respect and admire your clear-eyed views (on this and other issues).

May your will to continue this good work continue to be strong.

bamage said...

ondelette, I'm passing your letter around to my "political" distribution list in hopes of generating some more signatures.

Mike Maloney said...

One minor quibble: In your opening sentence "We are writing to you to ask that you undertake an investigation" the "to you" is superfluous.

I suggest: "We are writing to ask that you undertake an investigation".

Thanks for the hard work on this.

I wish you well.

Anonymous said...

One more minor quibble, if you are still able to make changes to the text of the letter:

"Office of Legal Council" - at the beginning of paragraph five - should read "Office of Legal Counsel" (at the Department of Justice).

See also Footnote 2, where "Council" to the President should read "Counsel" to the President.


Anonymous said...

Is a similar letter going to be sent that could be signed by non-Americans?

Just a though and a hope,
Standing with you for justice,
For Dan,