A student group at UC Berkeley’s school of law Tuesday called on the U.S. Justice Department, the Pennsylvania Bar and the University of California to “conduct full and thorough investigations” of former government lawyers who crafted the Bush torture memos, including John Yoo, a tenured faculty member at their school.
Comprised of a coalition of student groups and individuals, the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture (B.A.A.T.) has gathered over 275 signatures which call for investigations into “potential violations of professional and ethical duties, as well as possible criminal conduct.”
Both the Pennsylvania Bar Association where John Yoo is registered and the University of California have so far refused to open ethics investigations.
Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley has invoked academic freedom to defend Yoo’s actions. Edley previously said that the law school would analyze the report released by the justice department’s office of professional responsibility—anticipated to be at the end of this month—to make any further determination on this issue.
“Abuse by government lawyers cannot be swept under the rug,” said Liz Jackson, Co-chair of the Boalt chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a member of BAAT. “The Berkeley law community is making a statement that fundamental human rights were violated, and the institutions that have authority over these lawyers have a duty to investigate.”
Berkeley law students formed B.A.A.T. earlier this year to restore respect for human rights, civil liberties, and the prohibition against torture.
“Lawyers to the government owe their client an honest appraisal of the law, as informed by statutes, court cases and international treaties and norms—not a tortured interpretation that the end justifies the means,” said Stephen Rosenbaum, a Berkeley law lecturer. “I teach a course in civil rights in which one of the take-away points is that actions by government officials—whether voting on a budget or making policy—demand accountability.”