President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast, in this May 1, 2003.
There has been a lot of talk about bringing charges against former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney and others in their administration like former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Some of the reports about nations like Germany bringing war crimes charges against members of the Bush administration have been exaggerated, but they are touching on a very real push in Europe to hold them accountable for CIA torture and other human rights violations committed in the name of the so-called “War on Terror.”
Unfortunately, some of the misleading headlines suggesting that Germany is in fact already charging Bush, Cheney and crew aren’t exactly what’s happening… yet. Instead, what is happening right now is the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights has been making the case for heavyweight members of the European Union to bring war crimes charges against members of the former administration.
This has prompted some sites to misleadingly say that “Germany is filing charges against George W. Bush.” We’re not quite there yet, and the chances of these nations actually trying to prosecute Bush, Cheney and company are pretty slim. But the statement that the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights is making is a pretty powerful one.
So why Germany? The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights is making the case to Germany that the United States violated the internationally-recognized human rights of German citizen, Khalid El-Masri. El-Masri had been kidnapped by CIA agents back in 2004. What did he do? Nothing.
…no really, he did nothing. It was all a case of mistaken identity. But because of that CIA error, he was tortured in a secret CIA “interrogation facility” in Afghanistan.
Wolfgang Kaleck, the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights General Secretary said that “by investigating members of the Bush administration, Germany can help to ensure that those responsible for abduction, abuse and illegal detention do not go unpunished.”
Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and chairman of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, said in an interview with Democracy Now that Cheney and others should all be indicted:
“This wasn’t like these [torture] memos just appeared independently from the Justice Department. These memos were facilitated by the very people — Cheney, etc. — who we believe should be indicted. This was part of a conspiracy so they could get away with torture. But that’s not the subject here now.
“Secondly, whatever we think of those memos, they’re of uselessness in Europe. Europe doesn’t accept this, quote, ‘golden shield’ of a legal defense. Either it’s torture or it’s not. Either you did it or you didn’t.And that’s one of the reasons, among others, why we’re going to Europe and why we went to Europe to bring these cases through the European Center.”
El-Masri supports the push for prosecution, saying that “Germany — whatever happened before, between the NSA spying on Germany and the fact that their citizen has now been revealed to have been kept in a torture place, when it was known that he was innocent, I’m pretty sure that Germany is going to take this very seriously.”
Whether or not that turns out to be the case remains to be seen. But the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights doesn’t plan to ease up on their push for prosecution with Germany.