Friday, February 6, 2009

Núremburg Forgotten: No Criminal Action Against Torturers

Obama and Panetta (in his Senate confirmation hearing) have both asserted that people who committed acts of torture should not be prosecuted because they acted on the belief that what they were doing was legal.

One of the key principles that came out of the Núremburg hearings was that "obeying orders" was not a valid defense. Illegal acts cannot be justified by legal orders. Even judges were not allowed to take refuge behind the law.

But Feinstein and the other members on her committee, to say nothing of the President or Panetta, seem to have forgotten or ignored this historical precedent.

We learned to our horror during the past 8 years that a President of the U.S. can, in effect, give himself the powers of a Dictator. That none of our checks and balances, neither the Congress nor the Courts, can be depended upon to rein in declarations of such extraordinary powers. Our only hope, when it comes to torture, is that the people authorized to conduct it will refuse because they understand that, no matter who has ordered them to do it, they will face prosecution, sooner or later.

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