Post equitem sedet atra cura

Torture charges filed against Rumsfeld in Paris: a good strategy

(Horace: behind the horseman rides black care)

French and international human rights groups filed torture charges yesterday in Paris against Donald Rumsfeld while he was giving a talk.

Is this a strategy? I hope so, because it’s a good one:

1. Prepare charges secretly against suspected torture perps for as many jurisdictions as possible.

2. Wait till the perps travel, then ambush them with charges.

Short-term result:

  • Media event overshadowing anything else about the trip; the perp scuttles away just in case; there’s no arrest.

Long-term results:

  • The charges stay on file, are investigated, and arrest warrants may be issued;
  • Return trips become much riskier;
  • Other perps (Tenet, Goss, Gonzales, Cambone, Miller, Addington and Yoo under the Nuremberg precedent, and above all Cheney and Bush) will have to worry about every foreign trip after they retire and pay for criminal defence lawyers all their lives;
  • Eventually the spider’s web of torture charges will make travel too risky for the perps over much of the globe.

There’s only an outside chance of actual foreign torture trials of US citizens. Few foreign prosecutors will have the nerve, reflexes and independence to make arrests – but there are some, like the Spaniard Baltasar Garzón who might take a shot. If justice is ever to be done, it will have to be by Americans.

Update 28 October

Larry Johnson, blogging at TPM Café (after me) on the same subject, adds the point that if arrest warrants are issued, some of them will themselves have international reach. If a French prosecutor issued a European arrest warrant for Rumsfeld, he wouldn’t be safe even in politically sympathetic EU countries like Poland.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web