Historian notes that Reagan wanted torturers put on trial

Historians in the News

[Mr. Katz, the author of forty U.S. history books, is affiliated with New York University. Click here for his website.]

If water boarding is torture and a crime according to U.S. and international laws, shouldn't the United States bring some people to trial? President Obama insists we need to move ahead rather than prosecute, and this week he seemed to downgrade torture from a crime to a “mistake.”

An earlier President had another opinion. On May 20, 1988 when he sent the global Convention Against Torture Treaty to the Senate for ratification, President Ronald Reagan urged this way to proceed.

“The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention. It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

“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 torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.” [Emphasis added]

Do you feel this view should be more widely circulated?

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Neal Salisbury - 5/7/2009

Reagan's insistence that the US, along with others signatories of the Geneva Convention, "is required either to prosecute torturers or to turn them over to other countries for prosecution" should indeed be more widely circulated--throughout the blogosphere, to the MSNBC talk shows, and on to the "mainstream" media.