No Comment — April 23, 2009, 9:22 am

Accountability for Heads of State

On Fox News, Karl Rove claims that a torture investigation of the Bush Administration would make the United States the “moral equivalent” of a Latin American dictatorship run by “colonels in mirrored sunglasses.” Catch the full segment courtesy of the Young Turks:

So let’s get this straight: the Bush Administration can introduce torture as a matter of formal policy, over the objection of career soldiers and intelligence officers, lie about it, and then scapegoat a handful of grunts when it is uncovered, but those who demand accountability under the law for these misdeeds are “colonels in mirrored sunglasses”?! Only in the twisted world of Karl Rove. Moreover, in Latin America the world of colonels in mirrored sunglasses is vanishing, and the new age is one in which leaders who torture are routinely subject to criminal investigation and prosecution. Ask Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. As part of a counterterrorism campaign against Maoist guerillas, he authorized the use of torture and the “disappearings” of hundreds, and a Peruvian court just passed judgment following a full trial. The sentence: twenty-five years in prison. Peru shows how a healthy and self-confident democracy deals with serious misconduct by a head of state.

This evening I’ll be participating in the following event. It’s open to the public, but attendees are encouraged to RSVP.

OSI Forum: Prosecuting Heads of State

Location: The Open Society Institute, 400 West 59th Street, New York
Event Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009
Event Time: 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Speakers: Caitlin Reiger, Juan Méndez, Ellen L. Lutz, Scott Horton, Aryeh Neier

In 1990, an era of accountability began for former government officials and heads of state who had committed human rights violations and other abuses of power while in office. Since then, at least 69 former heads of state have been formally prosecuted for serious human rights violations or economic crimes committed during their administration.

Prosecuting Heads of State (Cambridge Univ. Press), edited by Ellen L. Lutz and Caitlin Reiger, explores the motivations, public dramas, and intrigues that accompanied efforts to bring them to justice. The book contains eight case studies of high-profile trials of former leaders in Europe and Latin America, including Augusto Pinochet, Alberto Fujimori, Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Taylor, and Saddam Hussein.


  • Caitlin Reiger, Deputy Director of the Prosecutions Program at the International Center for Transitional Justice, and co-editor of Prosecuting Heads of State.
  • Ellen L. Lutz, executive director of Cultural Survival, an international human rights organization that works on behalf of indigenous peoples, and co-editor of Prosecuting
    Heads of State.
  • Scott Horton, contributing editor at Harper’s magazine and lecturer at Columbia Law School and Hofstra Law School.
  • Juan Méndez, President of the International Center for Transitional Justice

Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Institute, will moderate the event.

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

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In five easy lessons

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The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

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Lives by Omission

Lifting as We Climb

Cattle Calls

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