April 28th, 2009
10:29 AM ET

Why We Must Prosecute

Torture Is a Breach Of International Law
Mark J. McKeon
The Washington Post

On Sept. 11, 2001, when the twin towers were hit, I was sitting in a meeting in The Hague discussing what should be included in an indictment against Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Bosnia. I was an American lawyer serving as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and there was no doubt that Milosevic should be indicted for his responsibility for the torture and cruel treatment of prisoners. As the head of state at the time those crimes were committed, Milosevic bore ultimate responsibility for what happened under his watch.


soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Thistle Hurt

    Travis...Name ANYTHING that torture prevented...you can't do it and neither can the un-indicted criminals from the Bush Administration. Torture is against U.S. and International law. Those who broke the law should pay the penalty.

    April 29, 2009 at 8:54 am |
  2. Brian p

    Hey why don't we even give them reparations, might as well give the terrorists some money since they are the victims here. that way they can do it again, and we'll be so busy focusing on the trials that we won't see anything coming. seems to me their back up plan to get U.S. citizens to spread hate for each other is working also.

    April 29, 2009 at 12:10 am |
  3. RoseParvin

    Some never change for they are sociopaths and remaining in society ore even in prison for them means others getting hurt and their rights being violated! Also, our society and world is in need of justice in the means of getting revenge and forgiveness has not been rooted!

    April 28, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  4. Diane N.

    lol @ Terry, TX, "my kids do more damage pretending to be wrestlers". Isn't that the truth. I think it's that CNN graphic with the infinite bucket of water being poured on the guy that's freaking people out. What I'd really like to hear is from the families of the victims from the terrorist attacks on 9/11, see how they feel about all this and whether any one should be prosecuted for how we treated the terrorists. We can all blog, me included, till we're blue in the face, let's hear what the victims families think about it. I can't help but wonder if the people pointing fingers at the Bush administration and or whomever authorized the procedures, saying prosecute! prosecute! has the b*lls to interview the people who lost their loved one's on 9/11(the victims' families)and ask them whether or not what was done to the terrorists 'inhumane' or unjust.

    April 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  5. anthony

    yes and lets not forget Nancy Pelosi ...or are you just wanting to go after republicans ? what a joke ..The Taliban must be having a grand old time with this one ...What a joke..They would torture us again and again ..what about our people that have been decapitated and tortured , or better yet how about 9/11?

    April 28, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  6. Isabel

    The punishment should be for those who erred, who committed barbaric. Indiscriminately.

    April 28, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  7. Venice Jones

    NO we should NOT prosecute anyone from the Bush Administration. The terrorist are not soldiers and do not follow the same rules as regular soldiers of a countries Army, so the Geneva Convention does not apply to the terrorist at all. This is nothing but a weak administration that we have in the White House, I am sadden that Obama released those papers. WHAT AN IDIOT!!!!! Did anyone prosecute the people that beheaded our Americans and hung their bodies from the bridge. Where is the justice for that???

    April 28, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  8. Mike, Syaracuse, NY

    Already the author makes a foregone conclusion that there were crimes committed. That has yet to be established, and waterboarding is really the only technique that might, and it's a big MIGHT, qualify. Comparing Bush to Saddam Hussein (who used poison gas on his own people, and did REAL torture), Milosevic (who buthered tens of thousands for their ethnic background) and Charles Taylor (a dictator in the classic sense who killed for power) is just insane. By the way, why no mention of the Democrats who were briefed on this (despite Pelosi's lies to the contrary) and time and again voted for the funding to allow it to happen?

    April 28, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  9. Sharon Kitchen

    go up the chain of command during that time.
    One of the links in this chain:Stephen A. Cambone
    either google his name or, Dept of Defense Ref#05-F-2077 (recently unclassified) copies of cummunications from him to Rumsfield on the afternoon of 9-11-2001 /then: "top-secrect notes by Tom Flocco.com.......if you get thru these and see that even on this horrible afternoon the secret ways the bush/cheney/rice/rumsy/gonzo admin wanted to get "us" involved in a war that should NEVER have been started......then there is more.

    Of course these folks should be prosecuted!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    LIES ? That is just the start..
    I certainly hope good ole' cheney keeps opening his mouth............more for the legal counselors to have......keep on talking cheney..........please.
    Why do you think rice said "they" should be quite? She knows.............
    Handcuffs are at the ready.

    April 28, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  10. Ingrid Persson

    We should definitely prosecute the criminals from the Bush Administration – Mr. Cheney first! Part of the brilliance of the Rome Statute that established the ICC, was that the ICC could move forward with criminal prosecutions for officials from countries that had not ratified the ICC, and for this reason, refused to give up their (alleged)murderers and torturers for prosecution. Interestingly, the Bush Administration supported this move by the ICC through a Security Counsel vote, thus allowing the ICC to prosecute (alleged) murderers from Sudan. How ironic would it be if the ICC found the courage to move forward against the (alleged) criminals currently being harborded within our own borders in Texas, and wherever it is that Mr. Cheney resides!

    I am deeply disappointed that our current president has not chosen to grapple with this, and instead, prefers sweeping the mess under the rug. I would have expected more from a Constitutional Law professor.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  11. Terry, TX

    "That means punishing the most senior government officials responsible for these crimes. " My kids do more damage pretending to be wrestlers.

    This is such a joke..get .Pelosi first…in this bogus witch hunt. I heard on CNN Rep Conyers and Senator Leahy want the “Truth” committees …Is this the same Rep Conyers whose wife is under federal investigation for theft of public funds. Senator Leahy…Leaking Leahy…oh he has a history of leaking confidential material while in a sensitive intel committee….he had to resign from the committee…CIA death was linked to his leak.

    Since the betrayal of our troops, intel agencies, and our allies this week... In 90 days...he has insulted our soldiers 3 times (favorite target), Catholics, Americans all over the globe, American taxpayers, Evangelists, Allies, Cuban Americans, Latin Americans, the Jewish People, Canada, England, France, Union Workers if our auto industries fail, big and small businesses, the radio listeners who value their free speech, the voters who value the secret ballot, banks, gun owners, our intel agencies, anybody who voted for the previous administration, and Independents (me). So Whose left in this country to support him...a bogus poll and Mark McKeon..ACLU ...George Soros, celebrities, ACORN, Jeffery Immelt of MSNBC....well polls change....let's take it on.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  12. meenas17

    Punishment is a true value prediction. To err is human, but going on making mistakes is an aberration which needs a stick to beat..

    April 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  13. Darci

    What a great article! I am also a believer in prosecuting those who have committed war crimes. Why should it be any different because they were high ranking officials? We should be conducting ourselves in a manner that we can be proud of (even in war). The U.S. wouldn't/doesn't accept that sort of treatment to our troops/civilians, so why should it be acceptable from our troops/civilians?

    April 28, 2009 at 12:29 pm |
  14. Diane N.

    Problem is, terrorists are not soldiers and don't go by the same rules as soldiers and military rules laid out by Geneva convention. No, maybe by what we did it doesn't make it right but by the same token it doesn't make it wrong either.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  15. Jean Paraski

    Agreed, Melissa... We shouldn't overlook torture! They should all be tried.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm |
  16. Debbie/Kansas City

    I agree, we must prosecute, but how to do that? President Bush and Dick Cheney so corrupted the Justice Department, that people now think the Attorney General is there to serve a certain political party. I think there should be a special prosecutor and a panel of judges. The Republicans are already saying that prosecution of the former administration for their actions, makes the US a "bananna republic". Like lying about events to take the country to war, torturing other human beings, ignoring the laws of this Nation and the agreements signed with other Nations; and conspiring with lawers, to eliminate the protections in the constitution and in the bill of rights to protect American Citizens from tyranny, did't already do that. But, unlike the previous administration, we should now act like Americans. We should have an impartial legal investigation of the facts. If, that leads to finding crime, then prosecution should go forward. No one is above the law, not Richard Nixon, not George Bush, not Dick Cheney, or anyone. I believe, especially, those who hold the highest offices in the land; those who are intrusted to guard the constitution and uphold the laws of America, should be held accountable for any criminal actions.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  17. Michael C. McHugh

    We could turn Bush, Cheney and company over to a Un War Crimes Tribunal, preferably with judges from France.

    I do believe the Republicans would have a stroke.

    April 28, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  18. Michael C. McHugh

    Maybe we will, but it will open up a very big can of worms, and not just about what happened in Guantanamo. The conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will go on trial, too–ALL OF IT. Everything, including murder. Once it gets started, the Republicans will go herky-jerky, which might be good for some laughs. They're already having a collective nervous breakdown as it is, although some Democrats will have to answer for their role, too.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:45 am |
  19. earle,florida

    Great read ,from a great newspaper,with a realisticly savvy ,and thoughtful reporter that placates surrealism from my past childhood hero? Yes, Clark Kent the fictional,but oh so real character disguised as a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper. This character whether he be real ,or fictional stands for all that is good,and fights a never ending battle for truth,justice,and the American way! Yes,and by the way, statistical data from the Associated Press has 110,600 Iraqis (2003-2008) deaths from violence,and the US-led invasion !

    April 28, 2009 at 11:38 am |
  20. James Hooper

    You have to be insane to compare what the US did to Milosevic and Hussein. The force used was so staged and watered down (no pun intended), with medical doctors standing by. My goodness gracious, what trumped up crap. What are we supposed to do with these thugs in a time of war? Ask them nicely?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:26 am |
  21. Melissa

    Yes, we must prosecute. The first to be so must be Cheney.

    April 28, 2009 at 11:22 am |
  22. Travis

    Forgive me, but I can’t shed any tears for the terrorists who underwent “enhanced interrogation”. If innocent people have been saved because a few radical killers were waterboarded then so be it. In my opinion the ends justify the means. Obama officials have even admitted that such techniques were "helpful"!

    I suppose the alternative would be to read them thier full Miranda rights, provide them with free ACLU attorneys, place them in medium security prisons where they can watch cable TV, free health care and meals, and allow them to attend mosque 5 times a day. If they refuse to give information that could prevent mass killings of innocents then….oh well, that is their constitutional right. Maybe if we all attended some cultural diversity training then we could better understand why these radical killers hate us so much. Of course we should apologize to them first before we do anything!

    Furthermore, when you try to compare the Bush administration to Saddam Hussein you lose credibility as a journalist in my eyes. Why not equate him with Hitler while you're at it?

    April 28, 2009 at 11:13 am |