Twenty Recommendations For Action Now Being Considered
As A Result Of Conference On War Crimes
By Sherwood Ross
ANDOVER , MASS. (Special) -- Twenty recommendations made at a conference on prosecuting President George Bush for war crimes are under consideration for action, according to conference convener Lawrence Velvel, a prominent law school dean.
"Attendees discussed the violations of international and domestic law that were committed and are now studying recommendations for action," said Velvel. "All of us feel that those who committed war crimes and other crimes against humanity must be held accountable," he said. "The continued viability of Nuremberg Principles barring aggressive war and torture depends on it."
More than 120 public officials, lawyers, academics, and authorities on the U.S. Constitution and international law attended the two day conference, which was held in Andover , Massachusetts on September 13th and 14th.
The conference resulted in recommendations ranging from asking the next U.S. Attorney General to prosecute Bush, to having any of some 2,700 county district attorneys launch proceedings against him for murder, to having Bush prosecuted for war crimes in other countries. A newly formed committee will decide which of the suggestions can practicably be pursued.
The complete list of possible actions is:
- Working for the election of district attorneys who pledge to prosecute high level war criminals for murder under state law, and working for the reelection of district attorneys who pledge to prosecute such criminals for murder.
- Working for the election of state attorneys general who pledge to prosecute high level war criminals for murder under state law.
- Working for the election of local executive and legislative officials (e.g., city council members) in specified localities who will formally denounce war crimes and might even seek to take action against them, as apparently has occurred in Vermont.
- Mandamus proceedings to force local prosecutors to act.
- Requesting state bar authorities to disbar the lawyers who were part of the executive cabal to authorize torture and other abuses that are crimes under international law, domestic law, or both.
- Teach-ins at universities on the question of war crimes.
- Asking universities to conduct hearings on whether certain individuals (e.g., John Yoo, Jack Goldsmith) should be dismissed from faculties for aiding and abetting criminal acts.
- A march of many thousands of American lawyers on the Department of Justice (a la Civil Rights or Viet Nam war marches or the million man march). The purpose of the march would be to highlight lawyers' belief that crimes were committed and must be punished.
- Seeking prosecutions of high level war criminals before foreign courts or before international tribunals such as the International Criminal Court.
- Asking the next federal Attorney General to prosecute war criminals.
- Seeking major congressional investigations of what occurred.
- Obtaining inspector general reports of what was done in given federal departments like the Department of Justice, the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, etc.
- A truth and reconciliation commission.
- Impeachment, even after the culprits leave office. And, unless he resigns from the federal bench, Jay Bybee, who collaborated with John Yoo on the first torture papers, will still be in office after the election.
- Legislative or judicial action to dramatically cut back on, and sometimes totally eliminate, the present vast overuse by the federal government of the state secrets doctrine, executive privilege and other such doctrines.
- Repeal of immunity amendments (which, even if not repealed, may have tremendous holes in them with regard to federal prosecutions, are unlikely to have any immunizing effect at the state level (though they may nonetheless be claimed as a defense), and whose only effect on foreign and international prosecutions would be to encourage them because these amendments indicate that the American federal government (like the governments of Argentina and Chile for many years) refuses to take action against federal criminals.
- Resisting pardons, particularly advance pardons by Bush or the next president before there are convictions.
- Creating an office of Chief Prosecutor(s), with Vince Bugliosi as Chief Prosecutor for domestic actions and perhaps a Co-Chief Prosecutor, with international prosecutorial experience, as Chief Prosecutor for foreign and international actions. This office would handle prosecutions in which governmental officials are willing to use "our" designated chief prosecutor as the lead lawyer, and would advise governmental prosecutors who desire to handle the prosecutions themselves but are willing to use "our" chief prosecutor as an adviser.
- Setting up an internet-accessible repository, or library, of information on the pertinent war crimes, so that persons will have ready access to all relevant information. The repository, or library, should be cross indexed by subject matter, and should include briefs, articles, books, memos, speeches, etc. -- anything that sheds light on what was done.
- Considering what, if anything, can be done to overcome the current ineptitude, failure and sometimes even deliberate hiding of facts by the corporate mass media, and to consider how the web might be used to accomplish this.
Vincent Bugliosi, former Los Angeles county prosecutor, extensively explained the legal reasoning under which Bush can be prosecuted for murder once he is no longer president. Bugliosi added that "No Federal, state or local statute says there is any person who can't be prosecuted for murder."
Bugliosi said that, of the 2,700 district and county attorneys having the power to prosecute, "There should be one prosecutor bold enough to say 'No man is above the law'. I am looking for that courageous prosecutor and I am not going to be satisfied until I see George W. Bush in an American courtroom prosecuted for murder."
Bugliosi said the evidence of U.S. war crimes in Iraq was overwhelming. "There are over 100 books" providing facts to underpin" bringing Bush to prosecution for the deaths of 4,000 American soldiers under false pretenses," Bugliosi said.
Philippe Sands, director of the Centre of International Courts and Tribunals at University College , London , discussed violations of law such as torture. He said that "Under the Convention Against Torture, any person who has tortured anywhere in the world can be arrested in the United Kingdom " if they enter that country.
Political scientist Christopher Pyle of Mt. Holyoke College , S. Hadley, Mass. , spoke for many Conference attendees when he said, "The evidence is overwhelming. The torture, kidnapping, and degradation of suspected terrorists was part of a deliberate policy, hatched and concealed at the highest levels of the Bush administration." Pyle said the nation does not need any "truth commission" that will offer immunity to suspects who confess their crimes because "if there is no threat of punishment, and therefore no prospect of plea bargains, why would underlings admit anything?"
Any attempt by President Bush to pre-pardon himself or any of his aides involved in war crimes and torture would be "an obstruction of justice," said Pyle.
He suggested one approach could be to appoint "a non-partisan prosecutor with considerable independence," much as Attorney General Elliot Richardson did when he chose Archibald Cox to lead the Watergate team. "A special prosecutor could be chosen by the next attorney general from among any number of distinguished Republican attorneys."
Professor Amy Bartholomew of Carleton University , Ottawa , told the conference that the Bush administration was attempting to replace the Nuremberg Principles adopted after World War Two with "a global and transnational state of exception" under which the U.S. can invade countries with impunity.
Peter Weiss of the Center For Constitutional Rights pointed out that there is no need for any new legislation to outlaw aggressive war, since "It is already outlawed by Article 2 of the United States Charter."
Dean Velvel summarized the conference proceedings by saying, "In a nutshell, this conference was about giving continued life to the Nuremberg principles, which our country itself established, instead of allowing guilty members of the Bush Administration to destroy those principles wholesale by committing aggressive war and torture with impunity."
For additional information contact Sherwood Ross, sherwoodr1[at]yahoo.com, Sherwood Ross Associates, Suite 403, 102 S.W. 6th Ave., Miami, FL 33130)