[On November 15, during the “Open Forum” portion of the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners’ committee meetings, I addressed the Board about the issue of torture. I talked a bit about the lack of accountability for U.S.-committed torture and about the concept of Universal Jurisdiction. A few days later, in an interview on Minnesota Public Radio, the Chair of the Board, Mike Opat, said, “[T]hey came up and testified about torture and legalizing hemp, and various other things that just don’t have any place in the county dialogue.” That led to the following statement at the Board’s “Open Forum” on December 6, 2011. Gail Dorfman is also a Hennepin County Commissioner.]
Mr. Chair, Commissioners. I have a strange computer. It gives me access to websites others can’t seem to get. This morning I ran across this article on one of them:
Committee on SLUJ issues final report
GENEVA, Switzerland, December 6, 2101 — The Washington, D.C.-based Committee on SLUJ (States Lacking Universal Jurisdiction) issued its final report today. The SLUJ Report announced that on January 11, 2102, the one-hundredth anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and the beginning of the decade historians call the Decade of the Dark Side, the State of Minnesota will adopt a policy of Universal Jurisdiction. Minnesota is the 63rd and last state of the United States of America to adopt Universal Jurisdiction.
SLUJ spokesperson, Georgette Opat-Dorfman, an internationally renowned human rights activist, said she was “especially gratified that the State of Minnesota finally has enabled all jurisdictions in the United States to assert the right and responsibility to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity, slavery and torture, wherever and whenever those crimes may have been committed.”
Ms. Opat-Dorfman, known to her colleagues by her initials, GOD, said, “One of the first U.S. officials to support the concept of Universal Jurisdiction was Ronald Reagan, a little-known President in the 1980s. At the time of his signing the Convention Against Torture, he said, ‘The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called universal jurisdiction. Each State Party is required either to prosecute the torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.'”
Ms. Opat-Dorfman continued, “I regret that my home state took so long to join the other 317 nations on the planet and the 43 space communities. Moreover, I am the great-great-granddaughter and my husband is the great-great-grandson of Commissioners of Hennepin County in Minnesota. So I especially regret that in 2011, that otherwise forward-looking county, a county at the forefront of adopting best practices, rejected the opportunity to take the lead in the United States in adopting Universal Jurisdiction. Instead, my great-great-grandfather, Commissioner Mike Opat, in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, said, ‘[T]hey came up and testified about torture and legalizing hemp, and various other things that just don’t have any place in the county dialogue.'”
“Today,” Ms. Opat-Dorfman concluded, “we place that attitude in the dustbin of human history. We all now agree that certain crimes are so horrendous that any court anywhere — whether or not its jurisdiction has any connection to the offense — can prosecute the offenders found in its jurisdiction. Genocide, crimes against humanity, slavery and torture are finally the concern of every public official, in particular those who oversee offices of prosecuting attorneys. While my state was slow, it has finally joined the rest of humanity. For that we can be grateful.”
Mr. Opat, listen to your great-great-granddaughter.