Europa Must Indict

The CIA kidnapped terror suspects and tortured the secrets out of them. But even when the Bush era is long gone, the U.S. will not bring the torturers to trial. That is why Europeans must file charges, even if it is politically precarious.

In the land of terror of the Islamic State, the ends should justify the means. The self-proclaimed caliph and his minions pillage and torture, and seek to justify this with the necessity of creating an empire pleasing to Allah.

In Western countries and in many others, the ends do not justify any means. The law sets limits for governments, intelligence agencies, military and police. Some considered absolutely such that they must not be exceeded under any circumstance. One such limit is the ban on torture. It is a concept of Western civilization, and it marks one of the big differences between rule of law and an unjust state.

Those who torture make men the means of their purpose; they take from them that dignity that belongs to all by virtue of their humanity, even belonging to the most terrible of criminals. The rule of law must therefore never torture, and the rule of law must punish those who do: so it is by national laws, and so it determines the law of nations. The Convention Against Torture of the United Nations, which has been ratified by the United States, requires states to take action against torturers.

Torture Justified by the ‘War on Terror’

That’s how the theory goes. In practice, politicians and intelligence agencies of the U.S. have allowed torture. They kidnapped terror suspects abroad and dragged them into other countries, like Poland and Afghanistan, where secrets were tortured out of them, or they were brought to Guantanamo to escape the protection of American justice for as long as possible. Politicians, such as former President George W. Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney, justified themselves by saying that it’s all been necessary to stop acts of terror, and that it was legal. The law of nations did not matter to them. Bush, Cheney and others therefore belong in court, and if the authorization of systematic torture were to be proven, they would belong in jail.

But that won’t happen. The terrorists of Sept. 11 have not only destroyed the skyscrapers in New York, but they also damaged the ability to know right from wrong for many Americans. Since that time, things have been authorized that were previously taboo within the rule of law. That is the real triumph of the terrorists.

Europe Has a Responsibility

It is now up to the European states to demonstrate that the torture of people remains banned. Systematic, state-sponsored torture can be seen as a crime against humanity — or be punished as a war crime — as indeed happened in the “war on terror.” With regard to acts of countries that are members of the International Criminal Court, Europe could intervene, but Germany is right by its public penal code to take action against such serious crimes, regardless of where and by whom they were committed. Torture took place within the territory of European states — for example, in secret prisons of the CIA in Poland, so that national courts have jurisdiction anyway.

The U.S. will not extradite their torturers, but the torturers, once accused, would not be able to travel abroad freely. Certainly, such charges would greatly strain political relations with America, but this is inevitable if Europe wants to show the world that it believes in Western values.

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