UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson, speaks as he launches an inquiry into the civilian impact of drones at a press conference in central London on January 24, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
United Nations special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson is urging countries around the world, including the United States, to bring Bush-era officials to "justice" for their wartime activities during his presidency.
If the name sounds familiar, it could be because Emmerson weighed in on the November 2012 U.S. election, warning that electing Mitt Romney would signify a "democratic mandate for torture." He recently began investigating President Obama's drone program.
Reuters has the story of the U.N. investigator's latest foray into American affairs:
[Emmerson] voiced concern that while President Barack Obama's administration has rejected Central Intelligence Agency practices conducted under his predecessor George W. Bush, there have been no prosecutions.
"Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States," Emmerson said in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which he will address on Tuesday.
The "war on terror" waged by Bush after al Qaeda attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 led to "gross or systematic" violations involving secret prisons for Islamic militant suspects, clandestine transfers and torture, Emmerson said.
Under Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice would not prosecute any official who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance given by its Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush era on interrogation.
But if the United States won't prosecute its citizens, Emmerson hopes foreign countries will:
"There is now credible evidence to show that CIA 'black sites' were located on the territory of Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania and Thailand, and that the officials of at least 49 other States allowed their airspace or airports to be used for rendition flights," Emmerson said, referring to clandestine sites where suspects were taken for detention without any extradition procedures, charges laid or access to a lawyer.
He urged those five states to conduct "effective independent judicial or quasi-judicial inquiries" into the allegations.
Any public officials who may have authorized or helped in setting up such facilities should be held accountable, he added.
Italy is the only country to have brought any public official to justice for such crimes, according to Emmerson.
In November 2009, the Milan criminal tribunal convicted 22 CIA agents in absentia for their role in the kidnapping of an Egyptian Muslim cleric known as Abu Omar on a Milan street in 2003 "and his rendition to Cairo where he was detained for 14 months and repeatedly tortured", the U.N. investigator said.
Emmerson's reports are non-binding, but lend United Nations credibility to those who would like to see similar prosecutions.
At the very least, Emmerson urges the United States Senate to "publish without delay, and to the fullest extent possible" their report on the CIA secret detention and interrogation program.