Failure to Prosecute War Crimes Is a War Crime Itself

While most Americans were focused on the awful mass killing at Sandy hook Elementary School, an important story flew under the media radar. George W. Bush and key ;members of his administration were convicted in absentia of war crimes at a tribunal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The crimes that George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, fromer Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and five White House lawyers were convicted could all apply to President Barack Obama and his administration.

The high officials were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the executive orders that launched the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as authorizing and failing to punish torture and other war crimes by U.S. forces, including the military and the CIA.

International law expert Francis Boyle, a professor of law at the University of Illinois, notes that under the Geneva Conventions, failure to take action to prosecute those guilty of war crimes such as the “Crimes against Peace” (invading a country that does not pose an imminent threat to the attacker), and torture, are war crimes in and of themselves. Boyle adds that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are responsible for covering up war crimes, which also violates the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.

Besides failing to prosecute war criminals, Boyle accuses the Obama administration of continuing to conduct a “bogus” war on “international terrorism,” including the ever escalating campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia,Yemen and other jurisdictions. He has termed Obama’s program of “targeted killings,” in which President Obama himself draws up the “kill list,” to be a case of “pure murder” under both traditional British common law and international law, and says these attackes constitute a “Crime Against Humanity under Article 7(1)(a) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.”

Dave Lindorff, a columnist for Counterpunch and author of several books, finds support for both the Malaysian tribunal’s judgment against the Bush II officials and Boyle’s charges in then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez. Lindorff noted in his book, The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), that Gonzalez warned in a January 25, 2002 memo in support of the torture of captured terrorist suspects, “it is difficult to predict tha motives of prosecurors and independent consels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based upon the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act.”

Gonzalez went on to warn President Bush of the possibility of the death penalty if he were convicted of war crimes, and in the same January 25 memo, Gonzalez blatantly revealed his motivation: he was making a determination that torture of suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban captives would be legal to provide the president and his staff with legal cover that “substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act.”

Professor Boyle is not the only international law expert who is accusing President Obama of war crimes: Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, supports the view that drone strikes are war crimes.

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