Marjorie Cohn

National Lawyers Guild, Other Human Rights Groups Call on Holder to Investigate, Prosecute Bush Regime War Criminals

From Marjorie Cohn’s Blog 

Seventeen human rights and civil rights organizations and 45 prominent lawyers and civic leaders have sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last week urging him to appoint a special independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute Bush officials and lawyers involved in setting illegal interrogation policies.

Holder had expanded the mandate of Justice Department lawyer John Durham to include a preliminary investigation but limited Durham's focus to a handful of interrogators who exceeded the limits set by the "torture memos."


What Could Change the Tide? A Strong Anti-War Movement

Marjorie Cohn, interviewed by Randy Dotinga

From Randy Dotinga: “On the legal front, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have few bigger enemies than Marjorie Cohn, a professor at San Diego's Thomas Jefferson School of Law.

Cohn, president of the liberal National Lawyers Guild, is a leading voice demanding that members of the Bush Administration be prosecuted for war crimes. She also condemns the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as illegal under international law. It's a debate that hinges on whether the wars were launched in self defense.

In a new book, "Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent," she and a co-author write about members of the military who have resisted service in the current two wars on legal grounds. She's also written a book about the Bush Administration called "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law."
So far, Cohn's opinions aren't gaining much traction in Washington D.C., although the Obama Administration is slowly making strides toward some torture prosecutions.

So Cohn fights on. In an interview, she talked about the responsibility of soldiers to disobey wrongful orders, the prosecution of government lawyers and the country's ability to withstand the distraction of putting a former president and vice president on trial.”


Spain Investigates What America Should

 By Marjorie Cohn

 A Spanish court has initiated criminal proceedings against six former officials of the Bush administration. John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes and Douglas Feith may face charges in Spain for authorizing torture at Guantánamo Bay.
If arrest warrants are issued, Spain and any of the other 24 countries that are parties to European extradition conventions could arrest these six men when they travel abroad.
Does Spain have the authority to prosecute Americans for crimes that didn't take place on Spanish soil?
The answer is yes. It's called "universal jurisdiction." Universal jurisdiction is a well-established theory that countries, including the United States, have used for many years to investigate and prosecute foreign nationals for crimes that shock the conscience of the global community. It provides a critical legal tool to hold accountable those who commit crimes against the law of nations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. Without universal jurisdiction, many of the most notorious criminals would go free. Countries that have used this as a basis to prosecute the most serious of crimes should be commended for their courage. They help to create a just world in which we all seek to live.
Israel used universal jurisdiction to prosecute, convict and execute Adolph Eichmann for his crimes during the Holocaust, even they had no direct relationship with Israel.
A federal court in Miami recently convicted Chuckie Taylor, son of the former Liberian president, of torture that occurred in Liberia. A U.S. court sentenced Taylor to 97 years in prison in January.
Universal jurisdiction complements, but doesn't supersede, national prosecutions. So if the United States were investigating the Bush officials, other countries would refrain from doing so.


Stanford Anti-War Alumni, Students Call for Condoleezza Rice War Crimes Probe

By Marjorie Cohn       

During the Vietnam War, Stanford University students succeeded in banning secret military research from campus. Last weekend, 150 activist alumni and present Stanford students targeted Condoleezza Rice for authorizing torture and misleading Americans into the illegal Iraq War.

Veterans of the Stanford anti-Vietnam War movement had gathered for a 40th anniversary reunion during the weekend. The gathering featured panels on foreign policy, the economy, political and social movements, science and technology, media, energy and the environment, and strategies for aging activists.

On Sunday, surrounded by alumni and students, Lenny Siegel and I nailed a petition to the University President’s office door. The petition, circulated by Stanford Says No to War, reads:


Newly Released Secret Memos Provide the Blueprint for Bush's Police State

 by Marjorie Cohn

 John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the memos’ authors, should be investigated, prosecuted, and disbarred.
Seven newly released memos from the Bush Justice Department reveal a concerted strategy to cloak the President with power to override the Constitution. The memos provide "legal" rationales for the President to suspend freedom of speech and press; order warrantless searches and seizures, including wiretaps of U.S. citizens; lock up U.S. citizens indefinitely in the United States without criminal charges; send suspected terrorists to other countries where they will likely be tortured; and unilaterally abrogate treaties. According to the reasoning in the memos, Congress has no role to check and balance the executive. That is the definition of a police state.


Bush Memos Reveal Policy of Cruelty: Obama Refuses to Enforce the Law


By Marjorie Cohn
In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU, President Obama released four Bush-era memos that describe unimaginably brutal techniques and provide “legal” justification for clearly illegal acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the face of monumental pressure from the CIA to keep them secret, Obama demonstrated great courage in deciding to make the grotesque memos public. At the same time, however, in an attempt to pacify the intelligence establishment, Obama said, “it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution.” He guaranteed free legal representation for CIA employees investigated by Congress or international tribunals, and indemnification for any financial judgments rendered against them.

Obama’s intent to immunize those who violated our laws banning torture and cruel treatment violates the President’s constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

The memos

The memo dated August 1, 2002 was signed by Jay Bybee, and the other three memos, dated May 10, 2005, were signed by Stephen Bradbury.

In startlingly clinical and dispassionate terms, the authors of the newly-released torture memos describe and then rationalize why the devastating techniques the CIA sought to employ on human beings do not violate the Torture Statute (18 U.S.C. sec. 2340).



World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.