Elizabeth Holtzman, whose Nation article on torture and impeachment has been noted and excerpted here, has also given a long interview today to Amy Goodman at Democracy Now!
Here are some excerpts:
What happened was in the 1990s, during the, I guess it was the Clinton administration at that time, Congress decided that it wanted to adopt laws to take it into full compliance with its obligations under an international torture statute and an international torture treaty and the Geneva Conventions. And so, it passed two laws. One is a statute making it a U.S. crime to engage in torture. It was passed two years before the 1996 law, and then you have the War Crimes Act of 1996.
And basically, what it does, it makes grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions a federal crime. Got it? Just like kidnapping or interstate burglary or child pornography, it is a federal crime. And the other thing, that's interesting is that it carries the death penalty. If death
results from torture or inhuman treatment, then there is a death penalty, and that means there's no statute of limitations. That means that if any high level official violates the War Crimes Act, and somebody died, they can be prosecuted. They are subject to prosecution for the rest of their lives.
The President always says that he is against torture, but let's step back and recognize that this administration has come out with a definition of torture that is totally unacceptable, which is one of the reasons that the War Crimes act is so useful, because it also has, as a predicate for liability, inhuman treatment. You don't have to go to where they are on torture, but he issued his orders with regard to how prisoners were to be treated in Afghanistan, explicitly excluded the C.I.A. He said we're supposed to treat prisoners humanely and something to the extent of if it's militarily appropriate. But there was no limitation on anything to do with the C.I.A. questioning. And so, we have indication that that might -- that he might have been sending some signal to the C.I.A. that you're not bound by the requirements of humane treatment. That's one of the indications that we have.
Right now, Holtzman is part of a panel examining documents showing how the US sheltered and hired Nazi war criminals, too. fifty years ago.
For more on this, read the full interview here.