February 12, 2009, New York – In a USA Today Gallup poll released today, two-thirds of Americans say they want investigations into the role of Bush administration officials in torture and warrantless wiretapping, and 40 percent want to see prosecutions. CCR President Michael Ratner issued the following statement in response:
Americans want to see justice done. If crimes have been committed – and there is ample evidence that they have – then the people who committed those crimes should be prosecuted. You don’t decide it’s better or more politically expedient to look forward than to go back and prosecute someone who commits any other kind of crime. Why should this be different? More to the point, prosecutions do look forward—they look forward to deterring torture in the future.
War crimes, terrible crimes of torture and abuse, were knowingly committed by senior members of our government, and the only way to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and to show the world that we are sincere in our desire to keep it from happening again, is to prosecute the people responsible. If every administration knows it has carte blanche to break the law because the next administration will always let them off the hook, I shudder to think what new crimes will be committed in the future.
As of this moment, the Obama administration is in violation of U.S. law. Dick Cheney admitted his role in the waterboarding of suspects and said he would do it again; the attorney general, Eric Holder, said that waterboarding is torture; and the Convention Against Torture, which is U.S. law, requires the criminal investigation of torture. There is zero doubt that the law has been broken.
The country seems to be ahead of President Obama on this question. I hope he will listen.
Michael Ratner is the author of The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld (The New Press 2008) and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He and the Center filed war crimes cases against Donald Rumsfeld and other high-level officials including Alberto Gonzales in Germany and France under their universal jurisdiction laws. CCR has cases representing the torture victims at Abu Ghraib, former Guantánamo detainees who were tortured and abused, and current Guantánamo detainees who continue to be held indefinitely, without charge, in dire conditions.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee.” CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.