In 2003, the CIA and the United States military kidnapped a man, a political refugee, in Italy. His name was Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. Our CIA agents spied on him from their luxury hotels and gourmet-meal lives in Milano (all paid for by U.S. tax payers). They were told to kidnap Nasr and send him to Egypt to be tortured, and they did so. According to recent statements by two of them, they knew perfectly well they were violating the law. But they were not worried enough at the time to refrain from discussing the matter on their cell phones as they enjoyed the dolce vita and racked up credit card bills wasting the same currency our government claims it has a moral duty not to waste on healthcare.
Nasr was indeed kidnapped, flown to Egypt, and tortured. His wife, Ghali Nabila, testified in Italian court for over six hours. In October 2004, she had been able to see him, briefly out of Egyptian prison. (He was eventually released years later.) Nabila said in court:
"I found him wasted, skinny - so skinny his hair had turned white, he had a hearing aid."
"He was tied up like he was being crucified. He was beaten up, especially around his ears. He was subject to electroshocks to many body parts."
Asked if that included genitals, she replied "Yes."
"I was hung by my feet from the ceiling, my head down, my hands tied to my back, my feet tied up. I was subjected to electric shocks all over my body, especially in my head, nipples, testicles, and penis. My testicles where also beaten with a stick and squeezed tightly if I refused to answer their questions or was suspected of telling lies. They fixed my body to an iron door and on a wooden instrument they call the bride, where my hands where tied over my head from behind and my legs tied together or sometimes each leg on different sides. The torture that takes place during this is electric shocks, and beating with a shoe and cables."
Presidents Barack Obama and Silvio Berlusconi oppose prosecuting Americans or Italians for kidnapping this man and transporting him to his torturers. The U.S. Department of Justice will, therefore, not prosecute. In Italy, on the other hand, there is still some measure of law, law as a standard applied to all equally, without immunity for those with the power to commit the greatest crimes.
Last Wednesday, an Italian court convicted 22 CIA agents, including the CIA's current second ranking official Stephen Kappes, and one member of the U.S. Air Force. The prosecutor Armando Spataro has repeatedly asked the Italian government to issue an international arrest warrant and request extradition by the United States. It has not yet done so.
One of the convicted CIA agents, Sabrina De Sousa, openly admits that the kidnapping was illegal, but says that she feels betrayed by those who authorized the operation and failed to protect its participants from prosecution. De Sousa ignores Nuremberg Principle IV, which requires noncompliance with illegal orders or instructions:
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."
For justice to reach to those highest levels and thereby deter the practice of kidnapping, under the name rendition, in the years ahead, justice must be permitted to proceed on the paths it has blazed thus far. Americans must make Italians aware of our gratitude for their efforts to save us from ourselves. And Italy must be compelled to obey its laws rather than its president on the question of issuing international arrest warrants and a demand for extradition. The 23 fugitives already can expect arrest if they visit any nation of Europe. They should not be free to roam the rest of the world.
By U.S. standards, Italy would be justified in kidnapping these fugitives and "rendering" them to Italian prisons. An extradition request would be a generous favor of a sort that the United States does not grant to others. Failure to take that step on behalf of the rule of law will put the blood of future rendition victims on the hands of the Italian as well as the American people.