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I’m Sure They’re Petrified

At the New Republic, Scott Horton relishes warning Bush administration officials that European countries are going to start trying them for war crimes.

And indeed, in what may be a sign of things to come, 26 American civil servants are being tried in absentia by an Italian court in Milan for their involvement in the rendition of a radical Muslim cleric to Egypt.

There’s hypocrisy and then there’s pure black comedy. Italy’s crusade against Americans involved in rendition can be accurately labeled as the latter. The Italian government recently expelled al-Qaeda member Sami Ben Khemais Essid and sent him on a one-way trip to his native Tunisia, where–according to Human Rights Watch–there is an “established record of torture.” Despite multiple rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (to whose measures Italy is fully bound), Interior Minister Roberto Maroni delivered Ben Khemais into a criminal justice system characterized by brutal beatings and anal rape.

That’s merely to comment on Europe’s active hypocrisy in this regard. There’s also Europe’s longstanding habit of ignoring and tacitly supporting war criminals and human rights violators of the non-American sort. When Yasser Arafat needed a cozy place to die, he didn’t submit himself to the dismal medical facilities that suffered as a result of his own kleptocracy but flew to a Paris hospice, where he was celebrated as a hero. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad was hosted in France in 2001. And let’s not forget that other late French tourist, Saddam Hussein. Italy is suddenly keen to try Americans in absentia, but over the years Europe has cordially hosted enough monsters to have proceeded with trials in situ until the development of a reified EU. Well, maybe not that long.


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