Yes, the United States does hold people liable for torture — as long as they’re not Americans. A federal judge has ruled in favor of the victim of torture carried out by a former Somalian military officer, something virtually inconceivable if that officer was in the U.S. military.
Federal Judge Mark Abel in Ohio has imposed a $15 million damage award on former Somali colonel, Abdi Aden Magan, who tortured human rights advocate Abukar Hassan Ahmed. What was most striking about the decision was the statement that such damages are necessary to guarantee that the United States is not a “safe harbor for those who commit human rights abuses.” Of course, this follows a series of court decisions barring the victims of the U.S. torture program from even getting a trial, let alone damages. Those responsible continue to appear on television from George W. Bush to Dick Cheney to John Yoo. Indeed, rather than punish those who facilitated the torture program, we made one — Jay Bybee (shown right) — a federal appellate judge with lifetime tenure. That particular “safe harbor” is found in the courthouse of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Ahmed proved that Magan oversaw his torture in Somalia in 1988. Ahmed was a professor at the Somalia International University and a human rights lawyer. Notably, his torture included the use of stress positions which was included in our own torture program. People like Bybee and Yoo advised that short of organ failure or death, such stress positions would not amount to torture.
Victims of torture carried out by other countries get their day in court and the torturers are held accountable. Victims of torture carried out by our own government are denied their day in court by the State Secrets Privilege, which really should be called the Executive Branch Can Do Whatever It Wants, Fuck the Constitution and the Rule of Law Privilege. And Obama is the one doing it.