For the past two decades, the International Criminal Court has concentrated on the war crimes and criminals who have operated in Africa. Over the past month, however, the court has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner or Children’s Rights. Our own Department of Justice is even considering a federal indictment of Syrian leaders responsible for the torture and execution of an American human rights worker, Layla Shweikani. The war crimes of Syrian President Basher al-Assad are well known, but this would mark the first time that the United States has criminally charged Syrian officials with human rights abuses. There is no indication, however, that the ICC or the Department of Justice will take on the war crimes committed by the United States during its Global War on Terror in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington.
The mainstream media has been giving increased attention to the issue of war crimes as well as the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, but there has been no attempt to link the issues. The war itself could be labeled a war crime or a “crime against the peace,” which was the charge against Germany introduced at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945 and 1946. The most prominent war crimes were the Central Intelligence Agency’s detentions and renditions program as well as the sadistic program of torture and abuse, which have been devoid of any accountability whatsoever. One of the leaders of the program, Gina Haspel, even became Donald Trump’s CIA director.
Nor has there been any focus on the U.S. military’s role in renditions and detentions, including the detaining of individuals suspected of involvement in 9/11. There are many reasons for closing down the wartime prison at Guantanamo Bay, but the obvious one deals with prisoners there who have never been charged with a crime over a period of 20 years and/or were subjected to numerous forms of torture and abuse. It was Vice President Dick Cheney who convinced President George W. Bush to locate the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba in an effort to put it out of reach of the U.S. legal system. A federal appeals course is still dealing with the issue of whether the Gitmo prisoners have due process rights under the Constitution, but the relevant opinions have not been released because they reportedly contain classified information. Once again, we are witnessing the application of security classifications to hide embarrassing information.