The law is clear: no one, not even former heads of state, enjoys immunity from prosecution for torture. The Pinochet Precedent took that principle from theory to practice. As quoted in an article in The Guardian:
"Nobody – from those who administered the practices to those at the top of the chain of command – is under a shield of absolute immunity for the practices of secret detention, extraordinary rendition and torture," said Martin Scheinin, UN special rapporteur on human rights and professor of public international law at the European University Institute. "Legally this case is quite clear. Bush does not enjoy immunity as a former head of state, and he has command responsibility for the decisions that were taken."How did we get to the point that a former U.S. president is not free to travel the world for fear of prosecution and protests? More importantly, how do we prevent this from happening again? Here at Human Rights USA, we believe that fully implementing the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is a good place to start. The Convention requires governments to fully investigate allegations of torture, hold perpetrators accountable, and provide redress to victims. When the U.S. government fails to uphold its obligations, other countries, like Switzerland, are obliged to step in.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and the World Organization Against Torture all issued statements reiterating the need to investigate and prosecute those responsible for torture -- even former presidents -- even former presidents of the United States of America. Today, Human Rights Watch called on U.S. officials to prosecute, saying, "The U.S. record on accountability for detainee abuse has been abysmal. The official authorization of torture by a head of state should never go unpunished."
For more news coverage, here are links to stories in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN.