US Once Led International Justice But, Today, We’re on Wrong Side of the Law

By David M. Crane, Ben Ferencz, & Hans Corell

(Re-published from The Hill | April 14, 2019) With this month’s 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide it is important that mankind continue to maintain a system of international accountability to help prevent future atrocities. The Rwandan atrocity was one of the catalysts that created the modern international criminal law system. Coupled with the horrors in the Balkans, the United Nations, under the leadership of the United States, created the first international war crimes tribunals since Nuremberg in 1945.

The United States was a key player in developing what became the International Criminal Court, created to deal with the most egregious international crimes, complemented by the efforts of the various state parties.

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was mankind’s first attempt to hold those who committed atrocities accountable under the rule of law. That seminal effort to try the leaders of Nazi Germany was led by an American, Robert H. Jackson, who was the chief U.S. prosecutor at the tribunal. The jurisprudence coming from the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1945-49 was the cornerstone by which the modern system of accountability was established in the mid 1990s.

All this was historically significant because the international community for centuries looked the other way when heads of state, dictators and monarchs turned against their own citizens and others for their sordid political, religious or ethnic advantage. Military historian John Keegan has said the history of war is the history of mankind, and the history of mankind is the history of war.

At the end of the 20th century, and the end of the decades long Cold War, the events in the Balkans, Rwanda and West Africa, particularly Sierra Leone, called for a different — even bold — approach to help seek justice for the millions of victims. The ad hoc and hybrid tribunals created for Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone were successful examples of what could be done when righteous fury is channelled into using the rule of law to hold accountable those who commit international crimes. These courts and tribunals were created with the focused effort and assistance of the United States.

As these efforts worked to seek justice for the crimes committed in Europe, as well as East and West Africa, the international community was working together at the Rome Conference in 1998 in making those experiments in international justice permanent. The United States was a key player in developing what became the International Criminal Court, created to deal with the most egregious international crimes, complemented by the efforts of the various state parties.

As world power shifted, with a diminished United States, in the 21st century, the very country that “built the house” called modern international criminal law stepped away from that house and handed back the keys, perhaps permanently. Since 2002, the United States has had a cynical and skeptical relationship with the International Criminal Court and, ironically, never became a state party …

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David M. Crane is a Syracuse University College of Law Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

Ben Ferencz was a leading force in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and is the last living prosecutor from the Nuremberg Trials.

Hans Corell, a former judge, was the legal counsel of the United Nations from 1994-2004. He was involved in the establishment of the tribunals and courts mentioned in the article.

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Brown Shirts, White Sheets, Red Hats: Beware Politicized Colors

By David M. Crane 

(Re-published from The Hill | March 3, 2019) Symbolism is critical to the political process, perhaps essential. At the ballot box, voters take these symbols in with them to identify a candidate who aligns that symbol with their political beliefs.

Politicians who have motives other than good governance can hide behind the shield of these freedoms.

Catchphrases, articles of clothing, and color are all part of our political paradigm. It allows supporters of a candidate to identify with others of like mind. Collective identity builds a base upon which a candidate wins an election and to govern.

There is nothing sinister about any of this in a larger sense. However, it can be sinister, divisive, and calculating, with an ultimate goal of control and governance by fear and hate.

It is this sinister calculus that citizens should be wary of, particularly citizens of liberal democracies where freedom of speech and expression are hallmarks to that democracy.

Politicians who have motives other than good governance can hide behind the shield of these freedoms, emerging to use their symbols to assist them in taking political control for more sinister reasons.

Modern history is replete with symbols, particularly clothing and colors, where politicians legitimately gain power, pivot, and seize ultimate control. Adolf Hitler and his henchmen were masters of using symbols and colors to create a national socialist agenda. The “Brownshirts,” party enthusiasts who believed in a greater Aryan nation, come quickly to mind.

In America, symbolism and colors also play an important part in our political and social discourse. Red and blue seem to be popular colors, also white. Suffragists wore a yellow sash, and the color white has symbolized the emancipation of women unifying for a proper cause. However, the white robe of the Ku Klux Klan captures how symbols and color can be used to promote division, hate, and fear for the sordid purpose of promoting a white America.

Over the past two years, another colored article of clothing has entered the political arena: a red hat. The “MAGA hat,” for President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, has come to identify not just the president’s political agenda but those who have bought into his philosophy …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

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The Kaleidoscopic Conflict That Is Syria

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Hill | Feb. 24, 2019) “It is not clear whether our culture can ever develop sufficient knowledge, rigor, imagination and humility to grasp the phenomenon of [ISIS]. But for now, we should admit that we are not only horrified but baffled.” — Anonymous, the New York Review of Books, Aug. 13, 2015.

These dirty little wars have become “kaleidoscopic” in nature, and the winding-down conflict in Syria is a prime example of how bizarre conflict has become.

In the information age, the concept of warfare and conflict are changing and shifting. Industrial-age warfare lingers, but fades as a possibility. Twentieth-century wars most likely are not the future of conflict. The new high ground is cyberspace. The battles of the 21st century largely will be fought on the World Wide Web.

Yet human conflict will continue. It is in our nature. Military historian John Keegan stated simply that the history of war is the history of mankind, and the history of mankind is war. We never will “buy the world a home and furnish it with love,” as the creators of the 1971 Coca-Cola commercial imagined. As comedian and social critic George Carlin said: “Life is tough, then you die.”

Conflict has evolved from the agricultural age, when armies stood in a field, toe to toe, beating and striking one another until one army yielded and left the field. In the industrial age, conflict became more deadly, the weapons systems more anonymous and destructive. Civilian populations were at risk and destroyed wholesale. In the information age, conflict became more precise, though civilians still pay the ultimate price.

Throughout the 20th century, mankind tried to control the horror of war through law and, towards the end of that bloody century, to hold accountable heads of state who caused conflict, particularly when they targeted their own citizens. The age of accountability, which started at Nuremberg and rose to prominence over the past 25 years, also has begun to lose its effectiveness in securing international peace and security. The dirty little wars in this age will be fought in dark corners of the world, where the parties will not follow the laws of armed conflict.

Nearly two decades into this century, conflict has almost reverted to the agricultural age — bloody, toe to toe, lawless.

Modern armies are not trained for this type of warfare. These dirty little wars have become “kaleidoscopic” in nature, and the winding-down conflict in Syria is a prime example of how bizarre conflict has become. At one point in Syria, the United States was fighting one side, working with that same side to defeat a common enemy (ISIS), and providing military support to many of the various groups found in that conflict. We were shooting in every direction, being shot at by the very weapons we were supplying to the parties to the conflict. How crazy is that!

To add to the confusion, the military situation completely changed on a daily — and surely a weekly — basis. Where one thing changed, everything changed; hence, the description that warfare had become kaleidoscopic.

None of the doctrinal norms in planning for future conflicts applies. We cannot anticipate what the next dirty little war will look like, which causes strain to the deliberate planning process within the Department of Defense. Syria stressed our systems. Very little that our various services were capable of bringing to the battlefield applied or were effective. On any given day at the height of the Syrian conflict, no one could predict what would happen next. Commanders and their planners were not just shooting in every direction, we also did not know what our objectives were or what the end-state would be. It remains so even today …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

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FBI’s Human Rights Investigators Are Critical to Prosecuting “Atrocity Crimes”

By David M. Crane, Stephen Rapp, Clint Williamson, and Beth Van Schaack

(Re-published from The Hill | Feb. 22, 2019) For over seven decades, the United States has stood as the cornerstone of a rules-based global system that arose from the ashes of World War II, organizing and leading a united group of nations as they held major violators to account at international tribunals convened in Nuremberg and Tokyo.

This world order is under threat as strongmen abound and governments step back from the advances made.

The Nuremberg Principles — which take as their starting point the promise that “any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment” — were woven into the fabric of our system of international peace and security. Together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these global pronouncements protect the rights of every human being, demand accountability for grave international crimes, and undergird our entire structure of atrocity accountability.

On the domestic level, the United States has incorporated a number of international crimes into the federal penal code, ensuring that prosecutors have the legal authority they need to address crimes within the jurisdictional reach of our courts.

This world order is under threat as strongmen abound and governments step back from the advances made. Here in the United States, we have seen troubling indications of a diminishing commitment to the protection of human rights and support for atrocity accountability. In one recent development, the FBI reportedly intends to disband its International Human Rights Investigation Unit (IHRU).

At present, the IHRU plays an essential law enforcement role in bringing perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice in the United States by investigating suspected perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, torture, recruitment of child soldiers, and female genital mutilation, among other offenses. This includes crimes committed abroad when the perpetrator is within reach, and crimes committed by or against U.S. citizens.

The IHRU continues the U.S. law enforcement commitment that began with successful efforts to track down Nazi war criminals living in the United States and to remove them to venues where they could face justice. Its stated mission is “to mitigate the most significant threats posed by international human rights violators through effective intelligence collection and targeted enforcement action” through coordination with other domestic agencies, as well as its counterparts in foreign countries and INTERPOL.

The IHRU is an essential partner in a co-located task force with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit. Together, this team presents cases to Department of Justice attorneys for prosecution. This inter-agency team has been successful in bringing perpetrators of atrocities in Guatemala, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia to justice in U.S. courts. Most recently, its work resulted in convictions of two Liberian warlords in federal court in Philadelphia …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

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Fear: A Dictator’s Tool

By David M. Crane 

(Re-published from Jurist | Jan. 29, 2019) Thomas Jefferson is reported to have said: “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

“With a rapidity that was shocking, this age of accountability gave way to the age of the strongman.”

I have investigated and prosecuted dictators and their henchmen for most of my professional life. I have studied their lives, personalities, their rise to power and how they governed once achieving that power. The one common theme in their theories of governance is fear. It is easier to govern and dictate to citizens through fear.

As Hannah Arendt wrote in her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism: “A fundamental difference between modern dictatorships and all other tyrannies of the past is that terror is no longer used as a means to exterminate and frighten opponents, but as an instrument to rule masses of people who are perfectly obedient.” The infamous dictators of the twentieth century, such as Stalin, Hitler, and Mao Tse-tung among others, understood this all too well. Their theory was that a frightened populace will allow their government to take drastic measures to protect them without protest, usually from perceived evil that threatens their society or country externally.

This object, person or peoples, religion or culture which focuses their fear is what I call their boogeyman. These boogeymen threaten their way of life and only the men in power have the capacity to address the threat. In a perverse way they tell their frightened citizens “We may have to take away your liberties, even kill some of you, to protect you from that boogeyman.” Over ninety million of those frightened citizens died at the hands of their own dictatorial governments in the twentieth century.

As the twentieth century morphed into the twenty-first century mankind pushed back and began to hold dictators, tyrants, and thugs accountable. With the advent of modern international criminal law, mankind created international courts and tribunals, which include a permanent international criminal court, to seek justice for victims of those who rule by fear. This movement lasted around twenty-five years. This age of accountability is wavering today.

With a rapidity that was shocking, this age of accountability gave way to the age of the strongman. International order and cooperation also gave way to a new populism that rejected the concept of international peace and security through the United Nations Charter for a more inward domestic nationalism, not seen since the late 1920’s and the early 1930’s.

The rise of strongmen across the globe in the past several years in Russia, China, Syria, Iran, Israel, Turkey, Venezuela, Hungary, the Philippines along with other longer term dictatorships from the twentieth century, has been astonishing and threatens the global order put in place after the Second World War. Even the cornerstone country of that world order, the United States, is toying with this populism …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

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The Shadow of Unlawful Command Influence

By David M. Crane

(Jurist | Jan. 4, 2019) The cornerstone of military justice is ensuring that commanders at all levels, called convening authorities, do not influence the lawful carrying out of investigations and prosecutions of service members who violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Developed through customs of the service over two centuries and codified by Congress in the early 1950’s, the UCMJ has been a model for the rule of law ensuring America’s armed forces conduct themselves in a way that would not bring discredit to the United States or a service. It’s a system that works, ensuring all of the constitutional protections afforded American citizens are available to its fighting forces, with some exceptions.

Military justice is an important tool for commanders to ensure that US armed forces conduct themselves for the good order and discipline of the service.

Military justice is an important tool for commanders to ensure that US armed forces conduct themselves for the good order and discipline of the service. This is the sine qua non of the system: good order and discipline. Commanders are charged with this important duty.

Stung by the misconduct of mercenaries hired from Hesse in Germany by the British to fight during the Revolutionary War, America’s armed forces were created under the principles of customs of the service and good order and discipline. It is a proud tradition and a system that has worked for centuries overseen by a civilian US appellate court made up of five Senate confirmed judges. An Article 1 Court, the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ensures the system comports with law, policy, tradition and the Constitution. One of its important duties is to monitor the possibility of any hint of unlawful command influence.

If unlawful command influence is found to have occurred during the creation of a court’s martial proceeding, military appellate courts or the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces will reverse any conviction. Further investigation and follow-up administrative or judicial punishment may occur against any commander having even attempted to, or in fact, influenced a proceeding. It’s serious, and at a minimum, career ending for a commander. It rarely happens. Commanders know their duties vis a vis the UCMJ.

Recently, President Trump, as Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States (a commander under the UCMJ) declared that a decorated special operations officer was being unfairly investigated/prosecuted for an alleged murder of an Afghan civilian. That is unlawful command influence …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

 
 

 

 

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Three Men and a Body: Media in the Age of the Strongman

By David M. Crane 

(Jurist | Oct. 31, 2018)  The blaming of attempted bombings of prominent democratic leaders and opponents of President Trump on a vindictive press by him at a public rally casts a dark shadow over a bleak landscape where once the freedom of the press was a corner stone of our democracy.  Declaring the press in the United States an “enemy of the people” rings reminiscent of attacks on the press in Germany of the 1930’s.

“Though dictators throughout history attack and then silence a critical press, the 21st century has seen the rise of the strongman, particularly in the past few years and with it more direct and violent attempts to muzzle the media.”

Around the world, strongmen have been attacking the concept of freedom of the press, as well as members of the press themselves. Putin has blatantly singled out members of the Russian press critical of his policies and shot them, poisoned them, run them over, and even thrown them off buildings.

Recently the direction by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), to kill Washington Post reporter and commentator Jamal Khashoggi is a further attack on members of the media who criticize a strongman. The crisis that followed quickly drew in three men, all arrogant and disdainful of the law, hypocritically mouthing words they did not believe in order to quell the outrage, to support each other, or to gain political advantage. Those men are MBS, Erdogan, and Trump.

Though dictators throughout history attack and then silence a critical press, the 21st century has seen the rise of the strongman, particularly in the past few years and with it more direct and violent attempts to muzzle the media. With a surprising rapidity, the stepping forward of nationalistic politicians onto the world stage where they used to dwell on the fringes of society, mainly in the political shadows, has caught liberal democracies off guard. Such thinking seemed to be behind us, not any longer.

The brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi is indicative of this new inward thinking nationalism and it’s hatred of the press not seen since the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Using terms such as fake news as a shield; the likes of Trump, Putin, Li, Erdogan, Duterte, MBS, among other strongmen, have begun to move societies against the media. With chants led by the President of the United States, “CNN Sucks!” augers poorly for American society and the world as a whole.

The loss of moral leadership by the United States under Donald Trump has enabled the increased pressure and attacks on a critical press. These various strongmen feel that being held accountable is no longer a viable threat to their political position at home or abroad. Essentially the rule of law, so essential to the maintenance of international peace and security, is no longer a deterrent.

The American President is pushing away legal, diplomatic, and political norms that have been cornerstones to that peace and security since 1945. The threat of pulling out of key geopolitical organizations and treaties such as the World BankWorld Trade Organization, the INF treaty, even NATO, have turned the early 21st century into a kaleidoscopic world where nothing matters and old friendships and allies are declared threats. We tend to forget Trump calling Canada, Canada, a national security threat.

Declaring oneself a nationalist in a global economy and international community sounds like a certain German chancellor in the 1930’s who founded and came to power with a nationalist political party. That chancellor did two things very quickly on seizing power, go after a vulnerable minority blaming them for the nation’s problems and attacking and muzzling the German press. Dictators do this as a matter of course. Stalin, Mussolini and Mao Tse Tung used the same tactics …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

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The House We Built: How the US Walked Away from Decades of Accountability

By David M. Crane

(Jurist | Sept. 22, 2018) JURIST Guest Columnist David M. Crane, the founding chief prosecutor of the international war crime tribunal called the Special Court for Sierra Leone, discusses America’s decreasing role in maintaining the international order and the Trump Administration’s recent attacks on the International Criminal Court…

As the world turns inward, nationalistic perspectives are on the rise. It feels like 1930, where the international order laid out in the Versailles Treaty, was about to be turned upside down. Today, something terrible is lurking around the corner, sitting in the shadows of anarchy and fascism. The rule of law tentatively steps forward afraid of what comes next. In this kaleidoscopic age, we do not know. All the international institutions laid out after World War II are being threatened by strongmen who seek their own personal power over the backs of citizens who seem too addled by consumerism or in the depths of social media. It has become a dog eat dog world and the dogs are the new nationalistic strongmen who have risen to power in an astonishingly short period.

The cornerstones to our system of international peace and security, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Trade Organization, and the European Union among others, are faced with the reality of a diminished role by the United States in ensuring that the rule of law remains the fundamental currency of this international order. Since 9/11, the United States’ role in international peace and security has been more of a threat to peace than as a leader and champion of the rule of law. No more so than today.

By way of example related to this diminished role, the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture is about to release its report on 27 September regarding the depths of the horror that was the Retention, Detention, and Interrogation Program led by the current director of the Central intelligence Agency. After the planes crashed into the buildings on that fateful September day, the United States began to slip down a slope that had no bottom. The world recoiled in horror at subsequent American policy and actions related to its misguided “war on terror.” A blind and bleeding giant, the Americans swung the club of illegality about the world trying to kill the fly that was international terrorism. The United States has never really recovered from this mindset and has lost all credibility as a nation of law.

The 21st Century has not been good to the United States and its Presidents have stumbled along trying to adjust to a new world order that they were not prepared for. They have shown the world, particularly its possible adversaries, that today it would have to move on without American leadership in maintaining the delicate balance of peace and security. American strength and resolve to uphold the rule of law was once the fulcrum that balanced the forces of good and evil that the international community struggled with during the Cold War and the kaleidoscopic age we now live in.

With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, this slide into oblivion has accelerated. Unstable and petulant with no respect for law, he has thrown gasoline on the fire started by George W. Bush and the war on terror. Barack Obama, aware of this slide, drank the cool aid of the war on terror and did little to halt the movement away from global leadership on the rule of law. The arbitrary use of drones throughout the world and extrajudicial killings of human beings deemed “terrorist” is a good example of how much he embraced his predecessor’s policy. The fact that Guantanamo remained open under his watch moved the United States further down the dark and slippery slope of lawlessness.

Throughout this period, the rest of the world (minus China and Russia) focused on accountability and creating a system of international criminal law that was largely built by the United States. Initially begun at Nuremberg, the Americans were the leading advocates of fair and open tribunals to try those who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and eventually genocide. In the 1990’s, but for American leadership, the likes of the courts set up for Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia, even the International Criminal Court, would not have happened. We were the master carpenters that built the house that is modern international criminal law, and yet we have just given away the keys to that house!

Recently, the United States once again has decided to drive a stake into the heart of international criminal law and accountability by attacking the International Criminal Court (ICC). Led by the National Security Advisor John Bolton, the Americans laid out a breath taking policy that would have shocked the original architect of the house the United States built at Nuremberg, Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Bolton has always wanted to destroy the ICC, beginning with the famous “Bolton Letter”, which practically speaking pulled the United States out of any meaningful relationship with the ICC. Though modified over time, the US has never been a leader in ensuring that the ICC succeeds. That house we build was left to others to maintain and protect, but we always kept the key, the key of United States’ adherence to the rule of law …

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Now retired from teaching at Syracuse University College of Law, David M. Crane is an INSCT Research & Practice Associate.

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Yemen: A Crime Against Us All

By David M. Crane 

In a bombing, the dust settles slowly over the strike zone. What emerges are grey images, living beings neutralized to monochrome. Bleeding from the ears, deaf, and dumb from the concussions the survivors walk about in a haze. These zombies are the first things you see staggering down the street away from the rubble behind them, rubble that is the tomb of loved ones, neighbors, and friends.

“For a decade or so, the rule of law prevailed regarding holding those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable. Yet we have slipped down a slippery slope. That political will is waning.”

There is no militarily necessary reason for the destruction, the strike carried out by one of the combatants who knew or should have known about the laws of armed conflict. The rules do not matter in most conflicts of the 21st century. Welcome to the dirty little wars that nip at the heels of civilization, a civilization grown weary of it all and who look the other way. It is just too hard to marshal enough political will to do something.

A powerless United Nations can do nothing other than to help ease the pain of air strikes by caring for the wounded and the terrified refugees. The once proud mandate of restoring international peace and security has changed to maintaining at best that peace and security.

The three nations that could restore that prominence, the United States, China, and Russia are its biggest challenges and all three could certainly live without the paradigm of peace set forth in 1945. All three of those nations over the past years are also the biggest human rights abusers led by strong men.

International Law has evolved over centuries through customary practice and the consent of nations to bind themselves to certain norms. Indeed the day-to-day actions in commerce, trade, and finance all hinge upon these norms. Over time, other norms that declare that human beings have rights to be free from want, fear, and to speak their minds and worship freely are now enforceable and carry an accounting if violated.

From all this just twenty-five years ago, modern international criminal law began. For a decade or so, the rule of law prevailed regarding holding those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable. Yet we have slipped down a slippery slope. That political will is waning and the use of the law to govern international relations regarding humanity challenged.

In this kaleidoscopic void, dirty little wars flourish like weeds in an abandoned lot. Yemen is one of those weeds thriving in the dusty haze of airstrikes.

The likes of the Yemeni conflict exists but for this condition and circumstance. A surrogate conflict backed by cynical nations vying for power and influence in the greater region that is the Middle East, the possibility of a peaceful resolution hinges on the rule of law. It is not going to happen …

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The Stain of Torture

By David M. Crane

(Re-published from The Jurist | June 26, 2018) June 26th is the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Its purpose — to denounce the crime of torture and proclaim solidarity with its survivors — is in stark opposition to the policy of my government.

As a former Chief Prosecutor of an international war crimes tribunal in West Africa, I walked the countryside, interviewing hundreds of victims — often people who had been tortured by their own government. The atrocities scarred them physically, emotionally, and psychologically for life.

But they shared their stories enthusiastically with our team, willing to relay the horror in order to receive human empathy, long after giving up hope of finding anything resembling justice.

Having prosecuted the officials of other governments for torture, I now find myself in a United States increasingly identified with torture and cruelty. Intensifying torture was presidential campaign rhetoric. A person who oversaw waterboarding in black site prisons is promoted to lead the CIA. Children are removed from their families as they flee gang violence. The U.S. reportedly now plans to leave the UN Human Rights Council, although a member has never before departed that body voluntarily.

How Did We Get Here?

A leader in building the post-World War II consensus against torture and for the rule of law, the United States chose a path of lawless brutality after the horrendous crime of 9/11. Lashing out broadly at Muslims, it threw aside its own rules and embarked on the rendition, detention and interrogation program (RDI).

Our government embraced torture, long known by interrogation professionals to be counter-productive. It did so as an attempt at payback, out of anger. Weak justifications defied logic, morality, and international legal norms that had stood for decades.

Two Libyan victims of the RDI program, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, exemplify how far the U.S. moved to the dark side. They were on their way to the U.K. to seek asylum as opponents of the Gaddafi regime. With intelligence from the U.K., the CIA detained them in Thailand and tortured them: painful stress positions, drugs, and vicious beatings. Boudchar was several months pregnant.

From Thailand they were rendered to Libya, to the hands of their enemies, where they suffered further torture. Ms. Boudchar was released from prison just three weeks before she gave birth.

Fourteen years later, the British Prime Minister finally issued an apology for the U.K.’s role in the couple’s rendition and torture, a crime led by the United States. Stating that her country had contributed to the couple’s capture, Teresa May admitted “neither of you should have been treated this way,” and apologized unreservedly.

Less than a month later, the European Court of Human Rights also repudiated torture. It delivered judgments against Romania and Lithuania, which both hosted secret CIA torture prisons, finding this supporting role a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In stark contrast, at the same time such moral progress was occurring across the Atlantic, the U.S. confirmed a key figure in the RDI program to lead the CIA. Gina Haspel oversaw detention and torture at a black site occupied by Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the detainee whom the European Court said was subject to “an extremely harsh interrogation regime.”

What Are Citizens to Do When Their Government Doubles Down on its Torture Record?

I am part of one attempt to answer that question and give the survivors a safe space to tell their stories. I am a Commissioner of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT). As part of the RDI program, the CIA used contractors and public facilities in North Carolina to move victims around the world to be tortured. Now local citizens are demanding to know how and why this was allowed to occur …

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