Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Universal Jurisdiction

The Washington Post reports that Europeans, under the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, are thinking of trying US officials for torture, a violation of international law, if these officials are not tried in the US for. According to the article, the release of memos by the Obama administration has made this easier to do and built political support for it.

I think this could be fun. If the Europeans go ahead, the US should indict every Spanish official in the chain of command for Spain’s extra-judicial program of killing ETA terrorists. We could go after the Germans for the Red Army terrorist shot on the train platform. Then there are all those French officials we could indict for the surreptitious sinking of the Green Peace ship in the 1980s, which unfortunately killed a Green Peace activist. And what about discrimination against Turks, North Africans, etc?

By the way, the New York Times reports that before the interrogation techniques that everyone now objects to were put to use, Nancy Pelosi was one of four Congressional leaders briefed on them. She says she can’t remember exactly what was in the brief.

Discussions - 14 Comments

The mainstream media wouldn’t do it. So we are trying to get your important messages to the American people. 11 This post is a suggested read at,

I would have thought that only God had universal jurisdiction.

When my son was at Guantanamo, those who worked in the prison were not allowed to use their names in front of the detainees, in order to make retaliation by Al Qaeda against themselves or their families more difficult. If there are Congressional hearings, doesn't that put every person who was involved whose name is made public at risk? I heard on NPR this morning that these hearings will be staff-run affairs. I know this is typical of Washington. Presumably, one or more of Nancy Pelosi's staffers would have read the brief on interrogation techniques and told her what was in the brief. Does this inspire confidence in staff-run hearings? What the heck? Congressional staffers work so hard, perhaps they should be allowed to have some fun and get public recognition for their labors on our behalf.

David, you have a good point that judicial retaliation in a international court promises endless entertainment. If there is no God, human justice demands this.

What were those europeans thinking? Only John Yoo can tell someone they have the ultimate power to do whatever they want, and get away with it.


Good stuff. Re Pelosi, in my WSJ op-ed the weekend before last (Peter linked to it in an earlier post), I cite a Washington Post article from December of 2007. This piece makes it clear that in the wake of 9/11, congressional members were briefed on the interrogation techniques, and that the usual question from Pelosi and others was "are you sure you're doing enough to get the information we need?" So do you think, these members can be indicted too?

Mac -- as they say, I am no lawyer, but why not? Since the EU has not done anything about the terrible crimes of so many Europeans, maybe we can indict the entire EU parliament and the entire EU bureaucracy? Think of the possible indictments against Russian officials? Who gave all that advice about Chechnya? What about UN officials for all that feckless "peacekeeing" in Rwanda or the Balkans?

Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

In the nineteenth century for one nation's courts to indict a government official in another government would be recognized as an act of war. Spain is trying to assert its right to govern America. It is a rejection of our sovereignty.

The gradual road to universal socialism and one world government. The wolf in sheep's clothing also known as the fabian socialist hard at work to undermine principles of national sovereignty.

In the for what it's worth department, you all can read Chantal Delsol's Unjust Justice and Pierre Manent's A World beyond Politics? A Defense of the Nation-State, for two incisive critiques of the above-version of international law & justice. And they're both French.

Mac, the Consistently anti-TORTURE International Jurisdictionalist knows that it's not just Pelosi who must be charged as an Accomplice to TORTURE, but it's Obama who must be charged with Obstruction of International Justice. Unless he goes along, we Consistent and Righteous Ones will ask what did he know about past TORTURE and when did he know it, and why didn't he immediately bring charges against it? And we will ask this in court. Either it is morally heinous and thus internationally illegal or not. And because it is TORTURE all non-evil humans know the answer.

Commenters are warned that any statement they make against these evident and obvious truths may be held against them in an International Court of Law.

Um David: France and New Zealand used international law to resolve their dispute over the French agents apprehended in New Zealand. See "Ruling Pertaining to the Differences Between France and New Zealand Arising from the Rainbow Warrior Affair." So it's not clear why that's a good response for your side.

I don't know much about the ETA cases, but I doubt that anyone would say that a domestic refusal to indict a police officer for shooting a terrorist suspect in hot pursuit (or some other well recognized category of police behavior) is in the same category as just letting bygones be bygones with respect to violations of the treaty against torture.

Link to Rainbow Warrior case.

Brett -- you don't understand universal jurisdiction. It doesn't matter if the two states sorted things out. There are always issues of justice.

You misunderstand the ETA case. It was a policy to kill extrajudicially. Also consider the UK's so-called "shoot-to-kill" policy against the IRA. ETC.

Typically the statutes that create universal jurisdiction preclude assertion of the jurisdiction where the defendant has already been punished, as long as the proceeding was fair.

I think TVPA suits related to ETA would be fine in US courts. I should have been clearer - I was addressing your German example.

Why not? The US has helped establish international precedent for such actions with the war trials after WW-II and interdiction actions to bring foreign nationals to justice. If we believe that we should onto others as we would have them do onto us, then shouldn’t we expect them to do the same to us?

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