Archives : FR | IT | ES

Articles since 2022

Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales should be prosecuted for war crimes

Friday 14 January 2005

- Contact the author


Human Rights Watch Wants War Crimes Prosecution of Bush Administration

19 Corporate Crime Reporter 3(3), January 13, 2005

Human Rights Watch today called for a war crimes prosecution of high-ranking officials in the Bush administration.

Kenneth Roth, the group’s executive director, called on the Bush administration to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate any U.S. officials who participated in, ordered, or had command responsibility for torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Roth said that the Bush administration has sought to blame the torture scandal on “young soldiers they sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

A special prosecutor should investigate higher ups - including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Attorney General designate Alberto Gonzales - who were the architects of and executives who carried out the administration’s torture policy, Roth said.

“Alberto Gonzales, as one of the architects of the Bush administration’s torture policy, can’t very well prosecute those who broke the law against torture,” Roth said. “An independent prosecutor is needed.”

Roth said that a special prosecutor would investigate violations of two U.S. laws - the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1994 which criminalizes torture committed anyplace in the world by U.S. forces, and the War Crimes Act of 1996, which criminalizes any serious violation of the Geneva conventions.

“That’s why the Bush administration kept saying that the Geneva conventions did not apply to the Afghan conflict,” Roth said. “They were under the misguided impression that by saying that they could avoid criminal prosecution in the United States.”

Roth said that there have been no prosecutions under either of those laws.

When asked who should be prosecuted under those laws, Roth said he couldn’t say how high up the investigation should go, “but I don’t think anybody would be satisfied that the prosecution end with a handful of private sergeants at one particular prison in Iraq. Clearly the problem of abuse of interrogation is much broader than that. And we need to look at the people who either ordered these crimes or who are responsible under a theory of command responsibility.”

Roth said that under the Geneva Conventions, one is guilty of a crime, “not simply if you direct the action, but also if as a commander of troops you learned or should have known of crimes by your troops and you don’t take steps to stop it.”

“In the many memos that have been released over the last few months, you never see Secretary Rumsfeld saying - ‘what is going on here? Let’s stop this mistreatment.’ You never see Rumsfeld saying - ‘end coercive interrogations,’” Roth said.


“The absence of such clear direction from the top makes Secretary Rumsfeld vulnerable to an investigation under a command responsibility theory,” Roth said.

When asked about President Bush’s criminal responsibility, Roth said - “He doesn’t show up in the memos. Gonzales appeared to be the point person there. But an investigation would go right to the top.”