A group of US organisations have launched complaints to five state bar associations, accusing former Bush administration lawyers of violating professional standards by sanctioning the use of torture on terrorism suspects.
The complaints seek disciplinary action and disbarment of former attorneys general John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, Michael Mukasey and nine other former Bush administration lawyers, reports The National Law Journal.
Kevin Zeese, who signed the complaints filed by the organisations, is currently executive director of VotersForPeace.US, a group seeking to end US actions in Iraq. In a statement announcing the complaints, Zeese said; "It is time to hold these lawyers accountable for violating their legal oath."
The accused also include former office of legal counsel lawyers John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury; former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and head of the Justice Department's criminal division, Michael Chertoff; Alice Fisher, also a former head of the criminal division; former Defence Department lawyers William Haynes II and Douglas Feith; former deputy White House counsel Timothy Flanigan; and former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney, David Addington.
The complaints are the latest in a campaign to pressure the Obama administration into investigating Bush administration officials for their roles in allowing harsh interrogation techniques. Attorney general Eric Holder Jr. and other officials have announced at least one of the methods used, waterboarding, is a form of torture.
A number of US laws and the constitution prohibit the use of torture techniques, however despite this, it is understood that the Bush administration used these throughout the war on Iraq and terrorist. A criminal investigation has not been ruled out by the attorney general, but Holder has said he is waiting for the completion of a report by the department's Office of Professional Responsibility.
The coalition against those involved in the violations is seeking to prove that the Bush administration condoned these actions and that those involved should be held accountable.
On a website for the coalition, Disbar Torture Lawyers, they state: “Several attorneys failed to adequately supervise the work of subordinate attorneys and forwarded shoddy legal memoranda regarding the definition of torture to the White House and Department of Defence.
These lawyers further acted incompetently by advising superiors to approve interrogation techniques that were in violation of U.S. and international law. They failed to support or uphold the U.S. Constitution, and the laws of the United States, and to maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers, all in violation state bar rules.”
"Just as the bar would suspend an attorney who advised a police officer to torture and brutalise a detained immigrant or criminal defendant, the bar must suspend these attorneys for advocating and causing the torture of war detainees," Zeese said. "The disciplinary boards that hear these complaints must act or they will be seen as complicit in the use of torture. This is an important step toward the ultimate accountability of criminal prosecution."
The Washington Post has reported that efforts to impose professional sanctions on the lawyers face steep hurdles because of the difficulty in gathering witnesses and evidence.