December 10—Human Rights Day


December 10 is International Human Rights Day, a day commemorating the United Nations General Assembly’s passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

In its third “Whereas” clause, the Declaration encourages codification of these human rights into law. It reads, “Whereas it is essential, if man [sic] is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

Article 5 of the Declaration deals with torture: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In the United States, we have enacted statutes that have partially incorporated this provision into law. For example, the Federal Torture Statute, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2340-2340A, criminalizes torture committed outside the United States, as well as conspiracy to commit such torture.

For the past several weeks, a former President of the United States has been openly proclaiming he authorized waterboarding, which occurred outside the United States. President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and United States State Department spokespeople at the November 5, 2010, Universal Periodic Review of the United States before the United Nations Human Rights Council have all said waterboarding is torture.

So we have numerous public admissions of violating 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2340-2340A by a former highest official of our government, and all but two or three members of Congress have been silent. Not a single senator has spoken out. Not a United States Attorney. Not the Attorney General. Not the President. Silence.

Attorney General Holder has seen fit to say publicly that there is an ongoing criminal investigation of the WikiLeaks discloures, but not a word from him about any investigation of former President Bush’s publicly admitted crimes. Reveal war crimes and you’ll be threatened with prosecution. Admit to war crimes and nothing will happen.

How have we come to this? How have we created an environment where a former President feels he can repeatedly and arrogantly proclaim he authorized torture, and he has absolutely no fear of any consequences?

Call the local United States Attorney, B. Todd Jones (612-664-5600) and ask whether an investigation has been opened. Call Eric Holder (202-514-2001) and ask him if he believes in the rule of law. Write Lanny Breuer (, head of the Criminal Division, and David Kris (, head of the National Security Division, which supposedly prosecutes Federal Torture Statute violations. Remind them they took oaths to support and defend the Constitution, not the President, not the Attorney General, not the Democratic Party.

If we are silent too, their shame is our shame.