TORTURE' REDEFINED: Memorandums issued by US Attorney-General's Chambers sanctioned acts of torture
KUALA LUMPUR: FORMER United States president George W. Bush and his associates had disregarded international laws by issuing memoranda redefining "torture", the KL War Crimes Tribunal was informed on its third day of hearing yesterday.
Chief prosecution lawyer Prof Gurdial Singh Nijar said Bush and his associates had sheltered themselves from the reach of the Torture Convention 1984 and Geneva Convention, which the US was party to, by limiting the applications of these conventions to America according to their own understanding.
The eight accused were Bush; former US vice-president Richard Cheney; former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld; former counsel to Bush, Alberto Gonzales; former general counsel to the vice-president, David Addington; former general counsel to the defence secretary, William Haynes; former assistant attorney-general Jay Bybee and former deputy assistant attorney-general John Yoo.
In a memorandum dated Aug 1, 2002 from Bybee to Bush, the former redefined the meaning of torture to "actual organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death".
Gurdial explained that the memorandum sought to raise the threshold for torture to suggest to the world that while the conduct of the US army may have been inhumane, it did not amount to torture.
"The memorandum were filled with flawed opinions. It is not for each party to the convention to substitute its own definitions, but to follow the one definition that prevails internationally."
He added that current US President Barack Obama had later repudiated these memoranda on Jan 22, 2009, further reinforcing the fact that these documents were legally flawed.
Gurdial said according to the conventions, the liability for war crimes should not only be attached to those who commit the act of war crimes but also those who acquiesced (gave tacit assent) the acts, in this case Bush and his associates.
"Bush issued orders authorising treatment that constitutes a war crime and he intended these orders to be acted upon.
He added that the fact that his executive orders were based on legal opinions of the A-G's chambers made those giving him advice equally liable for the war crimes committed.
The prosecution team had earlier established that there had been a sustained perpetration of brutal, barbaric, cruel and dehumanising courses of conduct against civilians detained by the American army which was in violation of Geneva Convention III and IV, Torture Convention 1984 and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The defence counsel will present their submission today.