Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Are we at least willing to defend the Constitution from the comfort and security of our Washington, DC offices?'

Kucinich Bringing Back Impeachment This Week

Ben Pershing

Keeping true to his word, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) informed his colleagues today that he would bring one article of impeachment against President Bush "for taking our nation and our troops to war based on lies" to the House floor Thursday.

In early June, Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against Bush and demanded that they be read into the record in full, taking up two nights of House floor time to do so. After the House voted to refer the articles to the Judiciary Committee, Kucinich vowed that he would come back in 30 days with 60 articles of impeachment if no hearings were held.

Judiciary has done nothing on the subject in the ensuing month, though Kucinich does appear to have scaled down his plans, as he is only introducing one article instead of the promised 60. By again using a privileged resolution to bring impeachment to the floor, Kucinich is ensuring that the House will have to deal with his measure within two legislative days.

Democratic leaders have made clear that they do not want impeachment proceedings against Bush to move in the House, particularly since he only has six months left in office. Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has generally stayed quiet on the topic but has given no indication that he plans to have his panel address the issue soon.

Kucinich's full "Dear Colleague" letter is after the jump.

Dear Colleague,

During the Fourth of July holiday a WWII veteran stood ram-rod straight in his crisp dress uniform and saluted our flag as it passed in a parade. His silent reverential stance was a powerful reminder of the love of country that is reflected in our veterans of all generations and all services.

It is also a powerful reminder of the responsibilities of the President of the Untied States in his capacity as Commander in Chief.

It is worse than heartbreaking that George W. Bush, as Commander in Chief, caused this country to go to war based on information which was false, and which he knew to be false. The consequences for our troops have been devastating. We have lost 4,116 of our beloved servicemen and women since the war began, with over 30,000 physically wounded and countless others emotionally wounded. The toll on the service persons and their families will be felt throughout their lives.

There can be no greater responsibility of a Commander in Chief than to command based on facts on the ground, and to command in fact and in truth. There can be no greater offense of a Commander in Chief than to misrepresent a cause of war and to send our brave men and women into harm's way based on those misrepresentations.

There has been a breach of faith between the Commander in Chief and the troops. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 or with Al Qaeda's role in 9/11. Iraq had neither the intention nor the capability of attacking the United States. Iraq did not have weapons of Mass of Destruction. Yet George W. Bush took our troops to war under all of these false assumptions. Given the profound and irreversible consequences to our troops, if his decision was the result of a mistake, he must be impeached. Since his decision was based on lies, impeachment as a remedy falls short, but represents at least some effort on our part to demonstrate our concern about the sacrifices our troops have made.

This Thursday evening I will bring a privileged resolution to the House with a single Article of Impeachment of President Bush for taking our nation and our troops to war based on lies. We owe it to our troops who even at this hour stand as sentinels of America because they love this country and will give their lives for it. What are we willing to do to match their valor and the valor of their successors? Are we at least willing to defend the Constitution from the comfort and security of our Washington, DC offices?

Sincerely,

/s/

Dennis J. Kucinich

Member of Congress

~ Capitol Briefing ~

 

Beware Bush's preemptive strike on torture

Since 9/11, President Bush has pushed the limits of presidential power in numerous ways -- although he has barely used the pardon power, among the most explicit executive prerogatives. At a press conference in February 2001, Bush responded to questions about Clinton's Rich pardon, saying, "Should I decide to grant pardons, I will do so in a fair way. I'll have the highest of high standards." By mid-2007 he had commuted the sentences of just three minor drug offenders serving long prison terms and issued 113 post-sentence pardons.

But after a federal appeals judge last year upheld the 30-month sentence of vice-presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby for his role in the Valerie Plame spy scandal, Bush called the penalty "excessive," extolled Libby's "years of public service" and commuted fully his prison time. It was a clear demonstration of his willingness to protect top officials involved in his wartime policies.

So what of those responsible for torturing detainees? There is the distinct possibility that in his administration's waning days Bush will issue a preemptive pardon for all those who have or may have committed federal crimes relating to detainee interrogations. He might even invoke his father's Orwellian praise of the Iran-Contra defendants, who were pardoned because of their "patriotism" and "long and distinguished record of service to the country," and who the elder Bush believed had been caught up in "the criminalization of policy differences."

Such a pardon might seek to protect low-level government personnel who relied on legally dubious Justice Department memos on interrogations. But it would also provide blanket immunity to senior administration officials who bear criminal responsibility for their role in drafting, orchestrating and implementing a U.S. government torture program.

~ more... ~

 

Criminal justice innovation competition launches on UN's Anti-Torture Day

GENEVA, June 24 IBJ-Anti-Torture-Day


GENEVA, June 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A competition for innovations that end torture, arbitrary detainment and abuse is being announced by
International Bridges to Justice (IBJ).  Called JusticeMakers, the initiative launches on June 26th, the United Nations International Day in Support of
Victims of Torture.

The competition will award $5,000 to the eight best proposals for concrete, achievable action. JusticeMakers is open to anyone with an idea and
a familiarity with his or her country's criminal justice system.

"Much of the time, curbing torture is more a question of resources than it is a question of politics and treaties," said IBJ Founder and CEO Karen Tse.
"I have seen criminal defenders, police, and civil society come together to uphold criminal justice in some of the most challenging legal climates."

JusticeMakers was inspired by people such as IBJ Fellow and Cambodian lawyer Ouk Vandeth -- passionate, creative individuals who deliver due process
rights to the accused.

A former policeman turned criminal defender, Ouk is an apt symbol for hope as the world pauses with the United Nations to commemorate those who have
fallen victim to the most vile of human rights abuses.


"Ending torture isn't an unattainable goal," said Ouk. "It is just about guaranteeing people the legal protections afforded to them by law."


Tse sees tremendous promise in JusticeMakers' pragmatic approach. "JusticeMakers will help move international human rights from an era of
declaration to an era of implementation," she said.


Applications will be accepted via http://www.justicemakers.net until
August 14, 2008.



About International Bridges to Justice (IBJ)


IBJ (
http://www.ibj.org) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2000 with a vision to end torture in the 21st Century through the just implementation of
criminal laws.  IBJ's experience has shown that legal counsel at the earliest stages of defense can reduce instances of torture by as much as 80%. Thus, IBJ works with the legal aid lawyer as the primary leverage point for the legal transformation of its target countries.  Since its inception, IBJ has
pioneered this practical approach to torture prevention in East Asia. It is now poised to implement human rights and fundamental freedoms in countries
worldwide.



ABOUT OUK VANDETH


Ouk Vandeth is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide.  He served as a police official from 1985 to 1994, a period during which it was common practice to obtain confessions from the accused using torture. Ouk subsequently left his police position to study law, and he became one of the first 25 legal aid lawyers in Cambodia.  Ouk joined IBJ in 2007 as a Fellow -- leading IBJ's criminal justice transformation efforts in his home country. Learn more about Ouk by visiting IBJ's Youtube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/internationalbridges.



PRESS CONTACT


IBJ


Sanjeewa Liyanage, Program Director


Phone: +41-22-731-24-41 | Fax: +41-22-731-24-83 | E-mail:
sliyanage@ibj.org



SOURCE  International Bridges to Justice

Anti-torture campaign wins influential backers

By Jim Lobe
Updated Jul 9, 2008
 

WASHINGTON - Some 200 religious leaders and former top U.S. national security and military officers have launched a campaign for a presidential order to outlaw torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of all detainees.


'Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.'
The bipartisan group launched the campaign, consisting of a "Declaration of Principles" that members of the public are also invited to sign, on the eve of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The campaign has been endorsed by, among others, three former secretaries of state, including George Shultz, who served under former President Ronald Reagan; and three former secretaries of defense, including William Cohen, a Republican who served under former President Bill Clinton.

Sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Evangelicals for Human Rights and the Minnesota-based Center for Victims of Torture, the declaration has also been signed by 35 retired generals and admirals, as well as by several retired senior counter-terrorist officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American," according to the declaration, which stresses that such practices are also deeply counterproductive.

"In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics that do not work, which endanger U.S. personnel abroad, which discourage political, military and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security."

The declaration calls on the president to issue an executive order that "categorically rejects the authorization or use (of) any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers."

The campaign comes amid a welter of recent disclosures regarding the personal involvement of top Bush administration officials in authorizing the use of what they have called "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, which virtually all international human rights groups have denounced as torture.

It also comes in the wake of a recent report by Boston-based Physicians for Human Rights on extensive medical and polygraph examinations of 11 former detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay for at least three years and released without charges.

In each case, according to the report, the examinations corroborated prisoners' claims of suffering serious physical and psychological abuse, ranging from beatings, electric shocks, shackling in stress positions, and, in at least one case, sodomy.

In a scathing preface to the report, retired Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the military's first official investigation on abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, wrote that the evidence forced him to conclude that "the commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture."

"The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account," he added.

Maj. Gen. Taguba's investigation in 2004, as well as subsequent revelations about the treatment of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, eventually led to congressional approval of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. It required military interrogations to be performed according to the U.S. Army Field Manual, which itself outlaws techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions' prohibition on cruel and inhumane treatment.

But, under pressure from the Bush administration, the law exempted the CIA, which has reportedly not only continued using the same tactics but has also continued holding terrorist suspects in secret prisons and "rendering" them to other countries whose intelligence agencies are known to use torture.

The declaration does not make an explicit reference either to the most recent disclosures regarding the major role played by top officials in authorizing the use of torture and cruel treatment against detainees, or to the question of accountability for past abuses.

Instead, it calls for across-the-board application of the Field Manual without exception. The executive order, it says, should declare that "we will have one national standard for all U.S. personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners."

In addition, it says the order should "acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross (and) ... in no circumstances hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances." Moreover, the order should ban the "transfer (of) any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment."

"It's time to say 'not in our name'—it's time to ban torture," said Rev. John Thomas, the president of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Thomas is one of more than 100 Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders, including 50 prominent Evangelicals, who signed the statement.

The organizers said that despite President Bush's unwavering refusal so far to apply the Field Manual to the CIA, they intend to present the declaration to him after collecting more signatures from the ranks of religious, government, political and military leaders, as well as from the public at large, over the next month or two. If Mr. Bush responds negatively, they intend to present it to the next president and then persuade Congress to make it law.

"We chose an executive order because it is the most dramatic, immediate and powerful way to close this ugly chapter on detention and open a new page," said Linda Gustitus, president of the Religious Campaign.

In addition to Mr. Shultz, other former secretaries of state who signed the declaration included Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher. In addition, Mr. Bush's first deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, also signed, as did former President Reagan's deputy secretary of state, John Whitehead.

Aside from Mr. Cohen, former Pentagon chiefs included Harold Brown, who served under Jimmy Carter and William Perry, who served under Bill Clinton.

Former national security advisers Sandy Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anthony Lake, who currently serves as a key adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, also signed the declaration.

Former Navy General Counsel, Alberto Mora, one of the government lawyers who battled unsuccessfully within the administration to preserve the ban on torture during Bush's first term, said the use of torture had badly set back Washington's anti-terrorism campaign and "made us less safe rather than more safe, in major part because of its use by insurgents in both Afghanistan and Iraq as an effective recruitment tool."

~ Final Call ~

 

UN preparing Anti-Torture Day

The United Nations organization is preparing for the International Day of Support for Torture Victims on June 26, marking the anniversary of the signing of the UN Convention against Torture in 1987, it was announced here.

Twenty years after his signing, this instrument has yet to be universally ratified.

The purpose of this commemoration is to call the attention of the international community about torture practices in more than 150 countries, in violation of the right of victims to their own dignity, according to the UN report.

It will be a bright opportunity to demonstrate against perpetrators and in favor of those suffering at their hands, and to support the construction of a better, more humane world for all, the text added.

~ Prensa Latina ~

 

Torturers may see justice

By Chuck Fager
Fayetteville
 

What are the chances that those responsible for torture in the U.S. "war on terror" will escape punishment?

According to Dick Marty, right now the chances are good.

Very good, in fact.

And Dick Marty should know. He's the Swiss equivalent of a U.S. senator — and the chief anti-torture investigator for the Council of Europe.

Marty produced two groundbreaking investigative reports that disclosed loads of hidden details about illegal U.S. torture flights to and across Europe. They also named Poland and Romania as the sites of similarly unlawful secret U.S. prisons.

The CIA shrugged off Marty's reports, and they got little notice in the U.S. But elsewhere they are recognized as landmarks, and haven't exactly burnished the U.S. image abroad.

I visited Europe this spring, giving talks to church groups, urging international action to stop torture. While there, I sought an appointment with Dick Marty. Having done investigative reporting myself, I wanted to give him props for a superb job, and chat about how he pulled it off.

More important, I hoped to get his candid view about the road ahead. I interviewed him in Lugano, his home town.

Knowing what he knows, I asked, is there any way to stop the perps from skating into the sunset on rollerblades of impunity?

Pardon the amateur crime-fighter argot, but it fits. Before Marty ran for the Swiss parliament, he was a tough prosecutor who bested mobsters and drug barons in his home canton of Ticino, which adjoins Italy.

Marty's English was limited, but his response was unmistakable: "That's exactly the right question to be asking," he said.

After that, he didn't have much immediate encouragement to offer. But then, he's not in the optimism business.

Sure, he agreed, torture is outlawed under both international and national laws. But, he added, at a secret NATO meeting in Athens in late 2001, the U.S. demanded and got assurances from all other member nations of impunity for its military and intelligence agencies, for any actions related to the "war on terror" on their territories. Several non-NATO nations, such as Ireland, later signed on as well.

Meanwhile, in U.S. courts, repeated assertions of the doctrine of "state secrets" have thus far stymied efforts, even by certifiably innocent torture victims like Khaled El Masri, to gain any redress.

So right now, it looks pretty well sewn up: tough luck, torture victims. And as for us lily-livered lovers of the Bill of Rights, better luck next time.

But that's the short-term view. Marty wasn't suggesting I go home and give up. "This will be a long work," Marty said. "It will require patience and determination."

Which means that, while the current forecast for torturers may be sunny, like Fayetteville weather, that can change.

How? In a lot of ways, mostly a bit at a time. Public pressure could continue to build, investigations begin, half-hearted at first, but picking up steam as the depth of the problem became clearer.

And eventually, prosecutions — most likely they'd start outside the United States. (Reliable reports are that cases are already being prepared in several countries, to surface in January.) And maybe a different U.S. president might just decide to keep out of their way.

Where would such a buildup of public pressure in the U.S. come from?

Believe it or not, the most likely place is American churches.

That's what happened, by the way, in the most famous anti-impunity case so far: the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998. That bust took 10 years of persistent work, and the Catholic Church was a major factor.

There are already several inter-church, anti-torture coalitions at work in the U.S. And they include more than the usual liberal suspects. An evangelical conference against torture is planned for Atlanta in September.

I'll be there. I figure it's the least a follower of Jesus could do.

Any other Fayetteville Christians care to come along?

We can send Dick Marty a postcard.

How do you say "patience and determination" in Swiss-accented Italian?

Chuck Fager is director of Quaker House in Fayetteville, and is active with North Carolina Stop Torture Now.
 
 

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