Saturday, November 7, 2009

Nobody is above the law

About three days ago in a landmark case, 23 Americans, mostly CIA operatives were convicted in Italy for kidnapping the Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, in Milan in 2003. While superficially this would appear to show that nobody is above the law, on a closer reading of the case it can be seen that there were a number of flaws.

Firstly, the convicted operatives were charged only with involvement in Omar's abduction and not for his enforced disappearance and subsequent torture. Of course, you might ask yourself, what is the difference between an "abduction" and an "enforced disappearance"? And, right, the CIA agents never knew that he was going to be tortured!

Secondly, while Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA station chief in Milan, was convicted, Jeffrey Castelli, the station chief in Rome and two others, a Medero Bernie and a Russomando, were dropped from the case. All three were given diplomatic immunity. With the evidence suggesting that they were all involved in the abduction and knowing that charges were brought against Lady we should ask, why diplomatic immunity was granted to Castelli, Bernie and Russomando?

Thirdly, Amy Goodman puts a very relevant question to the Italian prosecutor, Armando Spataro, when she asks; "Why did the CIA operatives not appear in the Milan court?" Well, Amy we don't really need Armando to answer that one do we? Of course, they are fugitives and, of course, "Uncle Sam" his not going to give up American citizens who were carrying out illegal activities on behalf of the United States. No, it is alright for the USA to demand someone's extradition, to cajole, bribe and threaten the International Criminal Court, to issue warrents against those who disagree with America. Granted they are mostly unsavoury characters who you would want to see behind bars anyway. Nevertheless, that is not the point, the United States does not extradite its citizens, the United States protects many of its unsavoury friends and the United States does not even recognise the ICC.

Finally, there is another problem and that is America's "mates" go along with this charade, this farce, this injustice; Armando Spataro says, "The prosecution office in Milan, namely, my office, asked to justice minister to send to US authority a possible request to arrest and extradite them on the base of a mutual convention between Italy and the United States. But the minister, in the first time, refused to send this request, as the law, the procedural law, allow him. But we sent to the minister another request, and we are still waiting, since July 2006, the answer of the minister. We didn’t receive any answer."

Now, in concluding, some of you might think that the trial was a complete waste of taxpayer's money. and yes, it is very unlikely that we will ever see any of these people behind bars. Nevertheless, the fact that they have been successfully prosecuted is something. Firstly, it does mean, that they will think twice about boarding a plane to Europe where they could be arrested and secondly, we can stop the humming and hawing when we deliberate on this one; these people are convicted criminals; full stop! Furthermore, the wider implications are obvious and there might indeed come a day in the not too distant future when far bigger criminals, Blair, Bush, Cheney, Olmert, Brown, Livni, Barak, Netanyahu, and quite a few others be forced to keep a low profile. As the embedded video shows, there is at least movement in the right direction!

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