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Click Here and add your voice to Protest Immunity from Prosecution for Torture and Uphold American Values and the Rule of Law.

WILL WE STAND UP FOR EQUAL TREATMENT UNDER THE LAW?

Have we become a nation where the rich and the powerful can avoid accountability under our laws, including international treaties and our Constitution?

IS POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY AN EXCUSE FOR IMMUNIZING POWERFUL PEOPLE FROM THEIR CRUEL, ILLEGAL MISCONDUCT?

Have we become a nation where long-time treaty obligations forbidding torture and requiring prosecution for war crimes can simply be set aside by a president who wants to avoid the political ramifications of holding powerful people accountable for their outrageous, illegal acts?

DO WE AFFIRM THE PRINCIPLES OF NUREMBERG, OR WILL WE SET THE STANDARD THAT "I WAS JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS" WILL BE A LEGAL JUSTIFICATION FOR COMMITTING ATROCITIES?

Have we become a nation where "I was just following orders" or, even worse, "I was just following the partisan opinions of lawyers" is now a defense to charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture?

DO SELF-SERVING LEGAL OPINIONS, WHICH ARE ENTIRELY INCONSISTENT WITH WELL-ESTABLISHED PRINCIPLES OF U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL LAW, ALLOW PEOPLE TO COMMIT ATROCITIES AGAINST OTHERS WITHOUT ACCOUNTABILITY?

Will we perpetuate the outrages of the prior administration by allowing the United States to become a hypocrite among nations by violating every fundamental lesson of the Nuremberg trials?

Would it have been a defense for Nuremberg defendants to say that lawyers wrote opinions saying that their atrocities were legal? If not, then why now, when war crimes have been committed by people acting on behalf of the US government?

Just consider: Your violation of a law is not going to be excused by the courts simply because your lawyer wrote an opinion for you saying that your misconduct was legal. Why, then, should those who perpetrated heinous acts against human beings, in clear violation of the law, be permitted to escape from accountability? To do so would undermine the rule of law and the trust among nations that the U.S. will live up to its commitments under international treaties forbidding torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Let your voice be heard– along with thousands of other Americans. Call for change. Call for reforms that will shed light on illegal torture by our government and help prevent such abuses from occurring in the future.

Lend your voice in calling for these important changes.

Click Hereto let President Obama, Attorney General Holder and Congress know that we expect them to uphold American values and the rule of law by adding your name to this letter.

Don’t permit Congress or President Obama to continue hiding the evidence of torture and depriving torture victims of justice in US courts. Demand that those responsible for human rights atrocities be held accountable. If President Obama means anything by saying that "we are a nation of laws," then accountability under those laws is compelled. A desire to "move ahead" cannot trump the principle that all people are equally accountable for violations of our domestic laws, our Constitution, and treaties ratified by the United States.

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S REFUSAL TO PROSECUTE FOR TORTURE AND OTHER ABUSES IS A DISREGARD OF THE RULE OF LAW AND OF OUR COMMITMENTS UNDER INTERNATIONAL TREATY COMMITMENTS.

Last week, President Obama released four previously secret Bush-era legal opinions from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel regarding the treatment of detainees. President Obama deserves praise for releasing these memos, which provide citizens with vital information about the lawless and barbaric conduct of the Bush administration.

However, his decision to rule out any investigation or prosecution of CIA operatives who tortured and abused detainees, and his refusal to prosecute high-ranking officials in the prior administration who ordered the torture and other abuse, shows a troubling disregard for our nation’s laws, governmental accountability, and vital international treaties to which the United States has committed.   When other nations engage in torture, the U.S. will have no standing to complain if it will not apply the same standards to its own personnel.

THE EVIDENCE OF TORTURE COMMITTED BY U.S. PERSONNEL IS OVERWHELMING.

The International Committee of the Red Cross recently released a deeply disturbing assessment of the treatment of detainees by CIA personnel, "ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen ‘High Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody." The report documents the experiences of detainees the CIA held incommunicado and without charges for periods ranging from a few months to nearly four and a half years. According to the detainees’ accounts, which are substantiated in the memos released by President Obama, CIA personnel committed the following acts:

   * Waterboarding, which dates back to the Spanish Inquisition and was used extensively by the Khmer Rouge and the Japanese against American soldiers during WWII. During the Spanish-American War and during the Vietnam War, US servicemen were prosecuted for waterboarding, a practice consistently considered to be torture.  During the so-called war against terror these past few years, one detainee was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

   * Using a collar to forcefully slam a detainee’s head and body against a wall
   * Forced standing for up to three days continuously, and up to three months intermittently, a technique that causes severe pain and serious injury, and was extensively utilized by the secret police of the former Soviet Union
   * Numerous threats to rape the detainee and members of his family, shock the detainee with electricity, and infect the detainee with HIV, among other threatened torture
   * Brutal beating and physical abuse

Click here to view a multi-media presentation about the record of torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, as well as other ways in which the rule of law in the US has been severely undermined.

The treatment of prisoners by CIA operatives clearly constituted torture and was in direct violation of U.S. domestic law and the international agreements our nation has signed.

Under U.S. law, torture is defined as an act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain and suffering," and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison (18 USC §2340).  Torture committed by U.S. personnel also violates the War Crimes Act of 1996. The United States has signed numerous treaties, which have the force of domestic law under the Constitution, that forbid torture, including the Convention Against Torture (signed by President Reagan in 1988) and the Geneva Conventions.

CIA agents cannot be immunized from prosecution on the basis that they were acting in accordance with legal opinions, when these opinions clearly contradicted U.S. domestic law, international law, and fundamental standards of human dignity.

The Nuremberg Charter forbids the defense of following orders as a justification for human rights abuses, and the Convention Against Torture states:

   "An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture."

Furthermore, the Geneva Conventions, to which the U.S. is a party, compel the prosecution of those who have committed human rights violations:

   "Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches [of the Conventions], and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts."  

In other words, a refusal to prosecute perpetrators of torture is itself a violation of the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Convention.

U.S. citizens have been prosecuted throughout the past century for conduct as severe as, or less severe  than, the CIA’s torture of prisoners during the past few years.

During the Vietnam War and the U.S. occupation of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War of 1898, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using waterboarding during interrogations.  In 1983, Texas Sheriff James Parker and three of his deputies were sentenced to four years in prison for waterboarding prisoners during questioning.  In the past few years, soldiers at Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Force Base were prosecuted for torture that was equally or less severe than that committed by CIA agents. Should our men and women in uniform be punished for these crimes, while CIA agents and those who authorized the torture are immunized from prosecution?

Hypocritically, Obama administration reports of human rights violations in other nations specifically condemn other countries for not holding government agents accountable for the same sorts of human rights abuses as those committed by CIA agents.

For example, in a February 25, 2009 report, the U.S. State Department criticized Indonesia for human rights abuses, stating that the country had "harsh prison conditions" and "impunity for prison authorities and some other officials" for human rights and civil liberties violations, and that the Indonesian government "did not supply sufficient food to inmates" and did not enforce laws against arbitrary arrest and detention.

The State Department also condemned Egypt’s security forces, making the accusation that Egyptian authorities had "tortured and abused detainees and prisoners, in most cases with impunity." As the report went on to note, "Prison and detention center conditions were poor. Security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals . . . and kept them in prolonged pretrial detention."

The Obama administration has condemned other nations for failing to ensure accountability for torture and other abuses, yet it has granted CIA officials immunity from prosecution for the same sorts of acts, many of them more harsh than those for which other nations have been condemned.

In a statement explaining why he made the Office of Legal Counsel memos public, President Obama declared that "their release was required by the rule of law." President Obama stated: "The United States is a nation of laws. My administration will always act in accordance with those laws, and with an unshakeable commitment to our ideals."

Yet President Obama’s decision to shield CIA agents and those who authorized torture from prosecution is completely at odds with the rule of law and equality before the law in the United States, it contravenes U.S. domestic law and international treaties our nation has signed, and it legitimizes criminal and barbaric conduct.

Tell the Obama Administration you insist on accountability for those who have committed torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of people.  If the laws are to apply to others, they must apply to us as well.

Click Here to join High Road for Human Rights in this coordinated national grassroots movement to restore the rule of law in the United States.

   Thank you,

   Rocky Anderson

   **********
   Rocky Anderson
   Executive Director
   High Road for Human Rights Education Project
   High Road for Human Rights Advocacy Project
   438 East 200 South
   Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
   (801) 364-3560 Ext. 119
   fax: (801) 364-9081
   www.highroadforhumanrights.org

Originally posted to Rocky Anderson on Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 08:15 AM PDT.

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