Conditions for Torture Persist in US Policy

An Amnesty International report entitled “USA: Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the ‘war on terror’” catalogues the United States’ three-year descent into the use of torture and warns that without a comprehensive, independent investigation into the United States’ torture and ill-treatment of detainees, the conditions remain for further abuses to occur.

Based on an analysis of relevant policy decisions and specific incidents of abuse, the report cites more than 65 specific recommendations that, if implemented by the US government, would provide substantial safeguards against further torture and abuse. Among these is a call on President Bush to make public and revoke any measures or directives that have been authorized by him or any other official that could be interpreted as authorizing “disappearances,” torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or extrajudicial executions.

The report was released to mark the six month anniversary of CBS News’ first broadcast of the photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib. Research by Amnesty International suggests that these are not isolated incidents, but rather evidence of a systemic failure to protect the rights of detainees in accordance with international law. Amnesty International has received frequent reports of torture or other ill-treatment from released detainees who were held in US-run facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and elsewhere. Detainees have told Amnesty International that they were tortured and ill-treated by US and UK troops during interrogation. Methods often reported include prolonged sleep deprivation; beatings; prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright lights. Virtually none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment has been adequately investigated by the authorities.

Amnesty International calls for a thorough and impartial investigation into torture and other abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and elsewhere, and for assurances that those who perpetrated crimes and those who contributed to a command climate that facilitated crimes are brought to justice. Amnesty International seeks the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry consisting of experts who would examine – up the chain of command – US interrogation practices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere. Hearings and findings should be made public. Amnesty International also calls for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate the reports of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere; to establish whether acts of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and other violations of relevant federal statutes have been committed; and to seek prosecution of those who perpetrated crimes and those up the chain of command responsible for creating a climate that facilitated such crimes. Within the US justice system, the Special Counsel is the most independent mechanism for conducting an investigation and prosecution.



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