A federal district court has ruled for the first time that the 1994 Congressional statute known as “the Torture Act” is constitutional. This statute, 18 USC §2340-2340A, provides that the United States may prosecute those who have tortured human beings outside the confines of the United States, so long as the accused is a US national, or found within the US. The Torture Act was approved by Congress following the adoption by the United States of the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture.
The defendant in this case, Charles McArthur Emmanuel, more familiarly known as “Chuckie Taylor,” is the son of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is himself currently on trial before an in-ternational war-crimes tribunal in the Hague. Emmanuel had argued that Congress im-permissibly exceeded its authority in approving the Torture Act. But in its 87-page decision in US v. Belfast II, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit told Emmanuel to blow it out his kiester.
“The United States,” the panel held, “validly adopted the CAT pursuant to the President’s Article II treaty-making authority, and it was well within Congress’s power under the Necessary and Proper Clause to criminalize both torture, as defined by the Torture Act, and conspiracy to commit torture.”
That the Torture Act has been ruled constitutional is not good news for those BushCo War On Terra-era US government agents and contractors currently under investigation by the extraordinarily tight-lipped special prosecutor John Durham. Because the Act would apply to them, too.