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What is this campaign?

This is a campaign for the arrest of United States president Barack Obama for crimes against humanity, when he sets foot on Irish soil, during the state visit planned for May 22nd – 24th.

What has Obama done?

Obama enjoys a far better reputation in Ireland than did his predecessor, George W. Bush, but proper scrutiny of his human rights record reveals that this reputation is undeserved. Although there are many more caveats to be considered about his presidency, the #ArrestObama #May22 movement is campaigning for his arrest for torture because the facts on this are solid, and because this is one of the most serious crimes that can be committed, especially by a public official who purports to stand for freedom and justice.

    Obama’s torture record is as follows: 

  • He actively prevented the prosecution of known torturers in the Bush administration, with his Look Forwards, Not Backwards policy. This is uncontroversially illegal under international humanitarian law. Read more…
  • He is vicariously responsible for the inhumane pretrial incarceration of U.S. military whistleblower Bradley Manning, which is tantamount to torture under the law of civilized nations, including the law of Europe. Read more…

See our page on the laws relevant to these charges.

Why must Ireland do this?

Ireland is a signatory to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and is therefore obliged to prosecute those who are guilty of torture, whether or not they are Irish citizens, and whether or not the torture occurred in Ireland, as soon as the torturer is within the reach of the Irish criminal justice system. To read an outline of the law, see here.

The law on torture is stark. Failure to prosecute torturers is endorsement of the practice of torture. If Ireland does not prosecute Barack Obama while he is on Irish soil, Ireland will have failed in its duties to uphold the basic dignities and rights of human beings, and will have sent a message to the world that Ireland approves of torture.

Many other countries have upheld their obligations as regards torture.

  • In 1998, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was indicted for human rights violations, and arrested in London. Read more…
  • In 2006, torture charges were brought under Canadian law against then U.S. president George W. Bush while he was on a state visit to Canada. The charges were eventually blocked by a complicit Canadian government, under the guise of diplomatic immunity, which does not apply to international crimes against humanity, such as torture. Read more…
  • In 2007, Donald Rumsfeld was forced to flee France, after an attempt to prosecute him there for ordering and authorizing torture. Read more…
  • In February of this year, George Bush was forced to cancel a visit to Geneva, after a collective of human rights organizations and torture victims filed suit there for his arrest. Read more…

There is much domestic opposition to Barack Obama on the issue of torture, and in particular, over the incarceration of Bradley Manning, but hitherto the American criminal justice system is proving inadequate to the task of holding the most powerful people in the world to basic standards of justice and respect for human dignity. We must oppose torture for ourselves, and for all human beings, and if America’s criminal justice system fails her people, we must assist Americans in opposing torture by ensuring that ours works as it should. Ireland must join the list of countries that rightfully and proactively opposes the crime of torture, or risk the ignominy of endorsing one of the worst offenses that can be committed against a human being.

Why will Obama be in Ireland?

The Republic of Ireland is a country with which the United States professes a ‘special relationship.’ Ireland’s political class is groomed by American diplomatic staff in the American embassy, and successive leaders are received in Washington with fanfare, in order to ensure Irish cooperation in U.S. foreign policy interests. This is often done despite popular opposition to the policies and actions of the United States government.

  • When popular opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at their peak, then Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern sought to collude with United States diplomats to mislead the Irish public, and to provide deniability for the Irish government, if it ever came to light that the airport in Shannon was being used for extraordinary rendition of detainees to black sites, torture regimes and Guantanamo Bay, where many of them continue to suffer indefinite detention without trial. This was revealed in a diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks, which can be read here. There is further coverage of it here.
  • Another diplomatic cable reveals how, while the Irish people opposed the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American diplomatic post in Ireland requested permission from the U.S. State Department to begin to meet with Fine Gael leadership – then in opposition – to ensure that Fine Gael’s stance towards U.S. foreign policy would be as unswerving as Fianna Fáil’s. Read about this in this Wikileaks cable.

Ireland has a history of capitulating to U.S. interests, even against the will of the Irish people. Ireland’s political class often stands shoulder to shoulder with U.S. officials, against the interests of Irish and American citizens. For this reason, this campaign will be met with indignation by the Dublin government, because arresting Obama seems anathema to U.S. – Irish relations. This cannot be our priority, because to ignore torture is to conspire in it. To prioritize Irish relations with official Washington over the incredible suffering of the victims of American torture is wrong and it is also illegal.

Obama must not be allowed to torture with impunity, especially when he is in the reach of the Irish criminal justice system. The #ArrestObama #May22 campaign calls on all Irish people who oppose torture, and the cruel and inhumane treatment of human beings to campaign for the arrest of Barack Obama on #May22.


Contact the #ArrestObama #May22 campaign at arrestobama@eml.cc