Let’s correct one major misconception some have about the basis for this action and how it relates to the U.S. legal system at the outset. The Convention Against Torture, which mandates that Switzerland and 146 other countries including the United States investigate and prosecute torturers, is part of U.S. law. Its ratification and its enforcement is part of our constitutional democracy. Torture is a crime that no circumstance — even national security — can ever justify. It cannot be redefined to make acts that have long been illegal suddenly permissible. The memos Bush relies on as a defense are no defense at all: as was found by the American prosecutor in Nuremberg, providing legal advice that justifies and leads to war crimes or torture is criminal. And it cannot protect from prosecution.Torture is also one of the few crimes, like piracy, slavery and genocide, where there is a global commitment to prevent and punish its commission. In 1980, a U.S. Court of Appeals declared that “the torturer has become like the pirate and slave trader before him hostis humani generis, an enemy of all mankind.” The federal court judges found that because torture is a wrong that is so egregious and so widely condemned that it is of “mutual concern” amongst the nations of the world, a torturer could be brought to justice wherever found. The “mutual concern” to eradicate torture was expressed in the United Nations Convention Against Torture. President Reagan signed the treaty, and the U.S. became a party to the Convention in 1994.
Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights on the legal basis for investigating Bush for torture: