(Re-published from The Jurist | June 26, 2018) June 26th is the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Its purpose — to denounce the crime of torture and proclaim solidarity with its survivors — is in stark opposition to the policy of my government.
As a former Chief Prosecutor of an international war crimes tribunal in West Africa, I walked the countryside, interviewing hundreds of victims — often people who had been tortured by their own government. The atrocities scarred them physically, emotionally, and psychologically for life.
But they shared their stories enthusiastically with our team, willing to relay the horror in order to receive human empathy, long after giving up hope of finding anything resembling justice.
Having prosecuted the officials of other governments for torture, I now find myself in a United States increasingly identified with torture and cruelty. Intensifying torture was presidential campaign rhetoric. A person who oversaw waterboarding in black site prisons is promoted to lead the CIA. Children are removed from their families as they flee gang violence. The U.S. reportedly now plans to leave the UN Human Rights Council, although a member has never before departed that body voluntarily.
A leader in building the post-World War II consensus against torture and for the rule of law, the United States chose a path of lawless brutality after the horrendous crime of 9/11. Lashing out broadly at Muslims, it threw aside its own rules and embarked on the rendition, detention and interrogation program (RDI).
Our government embraced torture, long known by interrogation professionals to be counter-productive. It did so as an attempt at payback, out of anger. Weak justifications defied logic, morality, and international legal norms that had stood for decades.
Two Libyan victims of the RDI program, Abdul-Hakim Belhaj and his wife Fatima Boudchar, exemplify how far the U.S. moved to the dark side. They were on their way to the U.K. to seek asylum as opponents of the Gaddafi regime. With intelligence from the U.K., the CIA detained them in Thailand and tortured them: painful stress positions, drugs, and vicious beatings. Boudchar was several months pregnant.
From Thailand they were rendered to Libya, to the hands of their enemies, where they suffered further torture. Ms. Boudchar was released from prison just three weeks before she gave birth.
Fourteen years later, the British Prime Minister finally issued an apology for the U.K.’s role in the couple’s rendition and torture, a crime led by the United States. Stating that her country had contributed to the couple’s capture, Teresa May admitted “neither of you should have been treated this way,” and apologized unreservedly.
Less than a month later, the European Court of Human Rights also repudiated torture. It delivered judgments against Romania and Lithuania, which both hosted secret CIA torture prisons, finding this supporting role a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In stark contrast, at the same time such moral progress was occurring across the Atlantic, the U.S. confirmed a key figure in the RDI program to lead the CIA. Gina Haspel oversaw detention and torture at a black site occupied by Abd al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, the detainee whom the European Court said was subject to “an extremely harsh interrogation regime.”
What Are Citizens to Do When Their Government Doubles Down on its Torture Record? Link
I am part of one attempt to answer that question and give the survivors a safe space to tell their stories. I am a Commissioner of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT). As part of the RDI program, the CIA used contractors and public facilities in North Carolina to move victims around the world to be tortured. Now local citizens are demanding to know how and why this was allowed to occur …
INSCT Faculty Member David M. Crane will join other distinguished international law scholars and practitioners at “Crisis in Yemen: Accountability and Reparations,” an event designed to bring the world’s attention to a growing humanitarian disaster in this Middle East nation.
Sponsored by the American Society of International Law, the Stimson Center, and the Washington Foreign Law Society, the panel also features Stephen Rapp, Former US Ambassador-At-Large for War Crimes; Mark Agrast, Executive Director, American Society of International Law; and Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch, among others. View the full list of panelists here.
The Yemen Civil War, which had its roots in the political upheaval of 2011-2012, has since turned into a complex conflict among a central, recognized government and its powerful Saudi-led allies, an alternative government in the country’s north backed by Houthi rebels, and several terrorist groups.
Escalating in 2015, the civil war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. An estimated three quarters of the civilian population have been affected by the devastation from warring parties on all sides. Death, disappearances, detentions, torture, displacement and famine are ravishing the country. A cholera epidemic is being exacerbated by raids on civilian populations.
Meanwhile, critical ports for delivery of food and medicines have been blocked. Arms and deadly munitions, funded by the US and UK, have proliferated. Secret prisons established inside and outside the country are detaining countless numbers of civilians, women, children, and aid workers.
The panel of experts, led by Rapp and Crane, will assess the situation on the ground in this stage of the Yemen crisis, and propose solutions drawn from fundamental international laws and standards.
Joining Crane as witnesses were J.S. Tissainayagam, journalist and human rights advocate;
Michael Jerryson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Youngstown State University; and John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch.
In his statement, Crane told the committee that, “I approach this issue as a neutral, someone who stands for the rule of law, particularly on the battlefield and for the protection of noncombatants. We live in an age of extremes. Dirty little wars arise across the globe. Parties to the conflict pay little heed to the laws of armed conflict. Many of these largely non-international armed conflicts see civilian casualties mount, most of
them women and children. The conflict in Sri Lanka was one such dirty little war, which saw the death and destruction of tens of thousands of human beings on both sides.”
Crane was a member of a panel of experts advising the Commission of Missing Persons set up by the Sri Lankan government in 2014. “I spent days walking the battlefields of the conflict in Sri Lanka, particularly of the final campaign in the Winter of 2009.”
Crane enumerated several humanitarian and war crimes issues that arose from the conflict and that have yet to be properly reconciled. These include violations of international humanitarian law committed by all sides, the intentional targeting of civilians in a campaign of terror to seek a military and political conclusion, and a brutal final campaign in the winter of 2009 that was exacerbated by an increasingly desperate Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam army (the LTTE, or “Tamil Tigers”).
Noted Chairman Smith, “Although the civil war ended almost 10 years ago, important work remains to make sure basic human rights are being respected in Sri Lanka. The resurgence of Buddhist Sinhalese nationalism poses a particular challenge to ethnic reconciliation. It is imperative for Congress to exercise leadership on this issue and ensure that a country as strategically located as Sri Lanka doesn’t collapse again.”
On Dec. 7, 2017, INSCT Founding Director William C. Banks and incoming Director the Hon. James E. Baker joined colleagues on the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security (ABA SCOLANS) for a one-day workshop investigating law and policy related to the military commissions at the US Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Workshop Report—The US Military Commissions: Looking Forward—has been published and is available from ABA SCOLANS.
Co-convened by George Washington University Law School, the purpose of the workshop was to provide a forum for expert discussion of issues that face the US military commissions. The commissions were first authorized by President George W. Bush in a Military Order in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and subsequently by the Military Commissions Acts of 2006 and 2009. Forty-one detainees are currently held at Guantanamo Bay. On Jan. 30, 2018, President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order “Protecting America Through Lawful Detention of Terrorists” allows the US to transport additional detainees to Guantanamo Bay “when lawful and necessary to protect the Nation.”
The workshop’s four sessions addressed:
An overview of the military commissions at Guantanamo.
Legal questions related to existing detainees not charged before the commissions.
Legal issues that could arise if new detainees were brought to Guantanamo.
The implications for the commissions posed by a new authorization to use military force.
Workshop rapporteurs were Judge Baker, who will succeed Banks as INSCT Director in July 2018, and Professor Laura Dickinson of George Washington University Law School. The workshop’s non-partisan report is intended to inform policymakers, commentators, and the public on possible paths forward in the interest of US national security, law, and justice.”The group assembled by ABA SCOLANS brought together scholars and practitioners in the US who are most knowledgeable about the Commissions and who are in the best position to think clearly and positively about reforms that could set the Commissions on a path toward achieving their goal of justice in individual cases,” says Banks.
Among the prominent national security scholars joining Banks and Baker at the workshop were Geoffrey Corn of South Texas College of Law, Jennifer Daskal of American University Washington College of Law, Ryan Goodman of NYU Law School, Andrea Harrison of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Litt of Morrison & Foerster, and Steve Vladeck of University of Texas Law School.
Successor to Robert H. Jackson Speaks at Jackson Center Link
(The Post-Journal | April 3, 2018) Inside the Robert H. Jackson Center on Monday sat David Crane, the first American chief prosecutor in an international war crimes tribunal since Robert H. Jackson, himself, during the Nuremberg Trial. Crane, former chief prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, indicted and later convicted Charles Taylor, president of Liberia, marking the first time a head of state was held accountable for war crimes.
“No one is above the law,” Crane said regarding the legacy of the Sierra Leone tribunal.
Crane’s mandate as chief prosecutor was to prosecute those who bore the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity that were committed during the decade-long Sierra Leone Civil War.
Crane also recently released a book titled “The Founders: Four Pioneering Individuals Who Launched The First Modern-Era International Criminal Tribunals.” The book, written primarily by Crane, features first-hand accounts of the creation of four separate tribunals that brought justice to places such as Rwanda, Cambodia, Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone.
Greg Peterson, director of the Robert H. Jackson Center, conducted the interview and noted that Crane created a lot of precedents regarding international war crime tribunals. Peterson described Crane’s new book, “The Founders,” as a detailed history of the “four foremost prosecutors since Jackson.”
The four prosecutors included in the book include Crane, Richard Goldstone, Robert Peit and Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
“He is in a high echelon of prosecutors,” Peterson said of Crane. “We’re thrilled that he’s here.”
Crane recently announced he would be retiring from his alma matter the Syracuse University College of Law where he taught as a professor of practice since 2006. While there, he taught international law, international humanitarian law, military law and national security law.
Prior to the public interview, a four minute video was played that showed segments from Taylor’s indictment.
“The path will be strewn with the bones of the dead, the moans of the mutilated, the cries of agony of the tortured echoing down to the valley of death,” Crane began his opening statement during the tribunal.
Crane said during the interview that he was personally attacked by other heads of state in Africa because of the indictment. After being indicted, Taylor was later sentenced to 50 years of imprisonment …
After teaching as a Professor of Practice at his alma mater since 2006, David M. Crane L’80 has announced that he will retire from the College of Law in August 2018. Crane taught international criminal law, international humanitarian law, military law, and national security law. As a faculty member of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, he developed interdisciplinary projects and courses with colleagues from across the University, including, most recently, a groundbreaking course on media and atrocities with Professor Ken Harper of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
At the College, Crane founded Impunity Watch, an online student-run law review and public service blog, and the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP), an internationally recognized effort among students, activists, journalists, and non-governmental organizations to document war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Syrian Civil War.
“It has been a pleasure teaching at my alma mater,” says Crane. “The hundreds—perhaps thousands—of students I have taught and placed in jobs or at other universities has inspired me and excited me in ways I never imagined. I hope I gave them a spark to go out in the world and make a difference.”
“For the past 12 years, David Crane has taught many hundreds of students about the paramount importance of the rule of law, the scourge of impunity, and that ordinary human beings—especially those who are the victims of atrocities visited upon them by the powerful—must always be the focus of justice,” says College of Law Dean Craig M. Boise. “I know that our students have been honored to work for Impunity Watch and the Syrian Accountability Project and that they were often spellbound in the classroom by David’s stories from his days in the military and working for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.”
Before Crane joined the College of Law faculty, from 2002 to 2005, he was the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), appointed to that position by Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan. Serving as a UN Undersecretary-General, Crane’s mandate was to prosecute those who bore the greatest responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s. Among those he indicted was Liberian President Charles Taylor, the first sitting African head of state to be held accountable in this way. Taylor was found guilty in April 2012 of all 11 charges levied by the SCSL, and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Crane’s UN appointment was preceded by more than 30 years in the US federal government. Crane held numerous positions, including Director of the Office of Intelligence Review; Assistant General Counsel of the Defense Intelligence Agency; an appointment to the US Senior Executive Service; and Waldemar A. Solf Professor of International Law at the US Army Judge Advocate General’s School. Among Crane’s most lasting legacies are the desk books he edited for publication by the JAG School: The Law of War, Operational Law, Counterintelligence Coordination, Legal Aspects of Future War, and Cases and Materials on Intelligence Law.
For the past six years, College of Law and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs students have assisted Crane’s efforts toward justice for the people of Syria. In particular, the student-led Syrian Accountability Project has documented humanitarian crimes committed by all sides during the Syrian Civil War. They have catalogued that information—relative to applicable bodies of international law, such as the Geneva Conventions, the Rome Statute, and Syrian Penal Law—in an extensive conflict narrative, crime base matrix, and in several white papers. The aim of SAP’s work is to guide a future prosecution team toward the administration of postconflict justice for Syrians. In 2016, the Syrian Accountability Project was praised by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) on the floor of the US House of Representatives for its work gathering evidence of atrocities.
Crane has received numerous accolades and awards for his service to international law and human rights, including honorary degrees from his alma mater Ohio University and from Case Western Reserve University. Crane has been awarded a Medal of Merit from Ohio University, a Distinguished Service Award from Syracuse University College of Law, and a George Arents Pioneer Medal from Syracuse University. Among Crane’s other awards are the Intelligence Community Gold Seal Medallion, the US Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, a Legion of Merit award from the US Armed Forces, and an Eclipse Award from the Center for Victims of Torture. Crane was made an honorary Paramount Chief by the Civil Society Organizations of Sierra Leone, and in 2006, he was given a key to the City of Highland Park, IL, where he attended high school.
Crane recently published The Founders, the complex and compelling story of his and his three fellow international prosecutors’ efforts to set up the world’s first international tribunals and special courts.
Crane’s experience investigating and prosecuting some of the world’s most appalling crimes and his expertise in humanitarian law has led to many media inquiries over the years by the world’s foremost news outlets. For instance, he has appeared as an expert on NBC’s The Wanted, a 2009 six-part series focusing on international justice; on the BBC’s documentary Mad Dog: Gadaffi’s Secret World in 2014; and in a lengthy 2016 profile in Der Spiegel in the wake of the release of the SAP white paper “Through a Window Darkly.”
The day after the release of the “Caesar Report” in 2014—first announced by The Guardian—worldwide media rushed to seek comment from Crane. “In the eyes of the media, David Crane L’80 is a wanted man,” explained SU News in its coverage. “[Crane] spent much of the day on Tuesday in a small TV studio located in Newhouse. From there, he spoke to reporters around the world … In one afternoon, he completed interviews with Sky News, CBC, the BBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. That was before taking a break at 5 p.m. to teach class.”
INSCT Director William C. Banks was a co-discussant on the panel “Complexity and the Law of Armed Conflict” at the 2018 Duke University Center on Law, Ethics and National Security (LENS) Conference on Feb. 22-23, 2018. Banks was joined on the panel by Rita Siemion, International Legal Counsel, Human Rights First; Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, former Judge Advocate General, Canadian Forces; and Professor Jeremy Rabkin of George Mason Law.
INSCT alumna Erin Wirtanen (JD/MPA ’98), Chief Counsel for the Center for Cyber Intelligence, CIA, was moderator of the “Complexity and Cybersecurity” panel. Amb. Nathan A. Sales, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism, US Department of State, and a former INSCT Faculty Member, spoke at the conference dinner at the end of the first day.
The conference—entitled Complexity and Accountability: The Future of the ICC—was sponsored by LENS, the Center for International and Comparative Law, and the International Human Rights Clinic. Other speakers included Maj. Gen. Charlie Dunlap, USAF (Ret.), LENS Executive Director; Dean Cheng of the Heritage Foundation; John Cronan, US Acting Assistant Attorney General and former Chief of the Southern District of New York’s Terrorism Unit, US Department of Justice; Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy, Facebook; and Professor Laurie Blank of Emory Law School.
Never before have international chief prosecutors written in detail about the challenges they faced, but with the publication of The Founders—co-edited by David M. Crane, Professor of Practice, Syracuse University College of Law; Leila Sadat of Washington University School of Law, St Louis, MO; and Michael P. Scharf of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, OH—comes the complex story of four individuals who created the world’s first international tribunals and special courts.
A candid look at how the founding prosecutors sought justice for millions of victims, the backdrop to these tales are four of the most appalling conflicts of modern times: the Balkan wars in the former Yugoslavia (1991-2001), which included the Bosnian genocide and led to hundreds of thousands of casualties and displaced peoples; the 1994 mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government; the Cambodian genocide (1975-1979), perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge; and crimes against humanity committed during the Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002). The crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during these conflicts spurred the creation of international tribunals designed to bring the perpetrators of unimaginable atrocities to justice.
When Richard Goldstone, David M. Crane, Robert Petit, and Luis Moreno-Ocampo received their orders from the international community, each set out on a quest to build unique postconflict justice mechanisms and launch their first prosecutions. South African jurist Goldstone founded the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which indicted 161 individuals between 1997 and 2004. Crane was the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2002 until 2005, indicting, among others, then-President of Liberia Charles Taylor for his role in crimes committed against Sierra Leoneans. (Incidentally, Crane was the first American to be named the chief prosecutor of an international war crimes tribunal since Justice Robert Jackson at Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945.)The founder of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia was Canadian Robert Petit, who led the investigation and prosecution of five of the senior-most leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Lastly, Argentinian lawyer Luis Moreno-Ocampo is most famous for becoming the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. During his tenure, which began in 2003, Moreno-Ocampo opened investigations into crimes committed in Burundi, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Uganda, and Georgia.
“As we worked on this book it occurred to me the extraordinary professional and personal risk we took in establishing these ground-breaking justice mechanisms. We all had successful careers when we literally received ‘the call’ asking us to stop our life trajectory and to take on a task with absolutely no certainty of success,” says Crane, who continues to work on humanitarian and atrocity law issues at Syracuse University College of Law, including with the student-run Syrian Accountability Project. “We were in unchartered waters, yet we were drawn to the possibility of bringing justice to victims of horrific acts. This we did, and we took up the flaming sword of justice. It was an honor and a privilege to be asked to found these international courts.”
With no blueprint and little precedent, each prosecutor became a pathfinder. The Founders offers behind-the-scenes, first-hand stories of these historic journeys, the challenges the prosecutors faced, the obstacles they overcame, and the successes they achieved. Contributions are made by the founders themselves, as well as former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Hans Corell, Leila Nadya Sadat, Michael Scharf, William Schabas, and David Scheffer.
Federal Judge Questions Enemy Combatant Detentions Link
William Banks, a professor at Syracuse University Law School, discusses how long the Federal government should be allowed to detain legally detain a U.S. citizen before letting them challenge their detention. He speaks with Bloomberg’s June Grasso on Bloomberg Radio’s “Politics, Policy, Power and Law.”
The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) will hold public hearings in Raleigh, NC, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, 2017, as a part of its ongoing investigation into how North Carolina’s state tax dollars and public resources may have been used to facilitate aspects of the CIA’s post-9/11 Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program, which potentially violated national and international laws.
The 11-member panel of commissioners, which includes INSCT Affiliated Faculty Member David M. Crane, will receive testimony from a diverse lineup of scholars, military officers, legal experts, and those with firsthand experience and knowledge of the CIA’s torture program, including both interrogators and detainees.
Witnesses will address the links between the US torture program and North Carolina, in particular the role of a CIA-associated company based in the state, Aero Contractors. The commission will hear testimony about how Aero Contractors used the state’s infrastructure—including taxpayer-funded public airports—to station and deploy planes that picked up suspects abroad and transported them to black site prisons or third party countries where they experienced torture.
In particular, Mohamedou Ould Slahi will testify about his experience being wrongfully accused, tortured, and detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for more than 14 years, which he wrote about in his international bestseller Guantanamo Diary. Slahi’s case is one of more than 40 documented to involve North Carolina-based jets and pilots. Many of these cases appear in the declassified executive summary of the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture released in 2014.
Confirmed witnesses appearing before the Commission at the hearings include:
Juan Mendez, former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Faculty Director of the Anti-Torture Initiative at the American University Washington College of Law
Glenn Carle, former CIA interrogator and Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights
Jayne Huckerby, law professor and Director of the International Human Rights Clinic at Duke Law School
Alberto Mora, former General Counsel of the US Navy and Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy
Lt. Col. Sterling Thomas, active US Air Force and counsel to two Guantanamo detainees
This event is open to the media and will be live streamed at nccit.org.