Friday, April 24, 2009

UN torture envoy: US must prosecute Bush lawyers

By VERONIKA OLEKSYN – 15 minutes ago

VIENNA (AP) — The U.S. is obligated by a United Nations convention to prosecute Bush administration lawyers who allegedly drafted policies that approved the use of harsh interrogation tactics against terrorism suspects, the U.N.'s top anti-torture envoy said Friday.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama left the door open to prosecuting Bush administration officials who devised the legal authority for gruesome terror-suspect interrogations. He had previously absolved CIA officers from prosecution.

Manfred Nowak, who serves as a U.N. special rapporteur in Geneva, said Washington is obligated under the U.N. Convention against Torture to prosecute U.S. Justice Department officials who wrote memos that defined torture in the narrowest way in order to justify and legitimize it, and who assured CIA officials that their use of questionable tactics was legal.

"That's exactly what I call complicity or participation" to torture as defined by the convention, Nowak said at a news conference. "At that time, every reasonable person would know that waterboarding, for instance, is torture."

Nowak, an Austrian law professor, said it was up to U.S. courts and prosecutors to prove that the memos were written with the intention to incite torture.

Nowak and other experts said that a failure to investigate and prosecute when there was evidence of torture left those responsible vulnerable to prosecutorial action abroad.

"If it should turn out ... that the (U.S.) government and its authorities are not willing to prosecute those where we have enough evidence that they instigated or committed torture, then there is also an obligation on all other 145 states" party to the convention to exercise universal jurisdiction, Nowak said.


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