The Justice Department invoked a 12-year-old federal anti-torture statute for the first time yesterday, indicting the son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor in connection with the alleged use of a hot iron, scalding water and an electrical device to shock and burn an ally of his father’s political opponents.
The indictment involves a rare use of a U.S. human rights law against a foreign national or a U.S. citizen over an act committed outside U.S. territory. Taylor’s son allegedly committed the torture in the Liberian capital of Monrovia in July 2002, while he headed an “antiterrorist unit” charged with protecting Taylor. …
“These cases are hard cases,” Julie L. Myers, head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, said at a news conference yesterday. “In this case alone, we had agents from … three different agencies flying all over the world to get evidence.”
Myers called the indictment a milestone. She said it will send “a clear message that the United States will not be a safe haven for human rights violators.”
Meanwhile in Washington, U.S. Denies Liability in Torture Case:
The Bush administration asserted in federal court yesterday that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and three former military officials cannot be held liable for the alleged torture of nine Afghans and Iraqis in U.S. military detention camps because the detainees have no standing to sue in U.S. courts.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General C. Frederick Beckner III also argued that a decision by the court to let a trial proceed would amount to an infringement by the judiciary on the president’s power to wage war and would open the door to new litigation in U.S. courts by foreign nationals who feel aggrieved by U.S. government policies.
When antiterror groups use torture in Liberia, it’s a crime in US courts. When antiterror groups do it in Afghanistan or Iraq, it isn’t.