[Pnews] CIA Torture is Unfinished Business
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 2 12:59:00 EST 2015
US: CIA Torture is Unfinished Business
December 1, 2015
(Washington, DC) – Obama administration claims that legal obstacles
prevent criminal investigations into torture by the Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) are unpersuasive, and risk leaving a legacy of torture as a
policy option, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
Sufficient evidence exists for the attorney general to order criminal
investigations of senior United States officials and others involved in
the post-September 11 CIA program for torture, conspiracy to torture,
and other crimes under US law.
December 1, 2015 Report
No More Excuses
A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture
The 153-page report, “
No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture
,” sets out evidence to support the main criminal charges that can be
brought against those responsible for state-sanctioned torture, and
challenges claims that prosecutions are not legally possible. The report
also outlines US legal obligations to provide redress to victims of
torture, and steps the US should take to do so. It also details actions
that other countries should take to pursue criminal investigations into
“It’s been a year since the Senate torture report, and still the Obama
administration has not opened new criminal investigations into CIA
torture,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
“Without criminal investigations, which would remove torture as a policy
option, Obama’s legacy will forever be poisoned.”
On December 9, 2014, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a scathing
of the still classified 6,700-page report documenting the CIA’s
detention and interrogation program. The Senate summary, while
confirming previous reporting
also revealed that CIA torture was more brutal, systematic, and
widespread than had been previously reported. It provided new details of
abuse, such as so-called rectal feeding
of some detainees, and gave information on the brutal impact that
painful stress positions and sleep deprivation had on detainees. The
summary focused on whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” were an
effective means of gathering useful intelligence – concluding they were
not – but it did not evaluate the legality of the program.
The Justice Department says that it had already investigated
CIA abuses in 2009 and concluded there was insufficient admissible
evidence to bring charges. But that investigation, headed by John
Durham, examined only CIA abuses that went beyond “authorized” actions,
instead of all CIA torture and ill-treatment. Even then, investigators
do not appear to have interviewed
any former detainees
undercutting claims that their inquiry was thorough or credible.
One defense frequently heard is that the CIA and senior White House
officials relied on legal opinions by the Justice Department’s Office of
Legal Counsel purporting to find that “enhanced interrogation
techniques” were lawful – the so-called Torture Memos. However, the
Senate summary provides evidence that CIA officials knew from the outset
that those practices would violate anti-torture laws. Other evidence
shows that CIA and White House officials went shopping for guarantees
against criminal prosecution and when that was refused, helped to craft
those same legal opinions authorizing the torture that they would rely upon.
It’s been a year since the Senate torture report, and still the
Obama administration has not opened new criminal investigations into
CIA torture. Without criminal investigations, which would remove
torture as a policy option, Obama’s legacy will forever be poisoned.
The Torture Memos were so strained in their legal reasoning that they
cannot fairly be characterized as an honest interpretation of the law.
These facts are the antithesis of the good-faith reliance on the advice
of counsel that could serve as a legitimate defense to torture charges.
Further, the Senate summary and other evidence show that the CIA abused
detainees in ways that were not authorized and applied authorized
techniques in ways that far exceeded authorizations.
Although much of the torture and other abuse took place a decade or more
ago, statutes of limitation do not bar several criminal charges. The
usual five-year federal statute of limitations is not a bar to the
crimes of torture or conspiracy to torture when there was a “foreseeable
risk that death or serious bodily injury” may result, as well as for
certain sexual abuse charges. In addition, the statute of limitations
for the crime of conspiracy may be extended if those responsible conceal
a central component of the plot, which was the case with the CIA
program, Human Rights Watch said.
Under the United Nations Convention against Torture, which the United
States ratified in 1988 <http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=35858>,
governments are required to credibly investigate allegations of torture
and to prosecute where warranted. The failure to investigate and
prosecute CIA torture increases the danger that some future president
will authorize similar illegal interrogation methods in response to an
inevitable serious security threat. Several presidential candidates for
the 2016 elections have defended the use
of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and some have said they would use
The Convention against Torture, which the US government was instrumental
in shaping, also requires redress and compensation to torture victims.
But the Bush and Obama administrations have actively thwarted
<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/us/09secrets.html?_r=0> every attempt
by former detainees to obtain remedies in US courts, invoking claims of
immunity and national security to get lawsuits dismissed before the
plaintiffs could even introduce evidence of abuse.
The Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct
new investigations ensuring that all relevant witnesses, including
claimed victims of torture, are interviewed and all available relevant
physical evidence is collected, preserved, and examined, Human Rights
“If the United States with its established democracy and stable
political system can flout its legal obligation to prosecute torture, it
undermines respect for the rule of law the world over,” Roth said.
“Government officials who went shopping for and helped to craft legal
opinions justifying the unjustifiable shouldn’t be able to rely on those
opinions to shield themselves from liability.”
The report also describes cases abroad
investigate CIA torture-related abuses. Investigations in other
countries have targeted US officials as well as national officials
alleged to have participated or been complicit in CIA abuses. The duty
to prosecute lies principally with the US government, but the Convention
against Torture contains a “universal jurisdiction” clause that
obligates all governments to prosecute suspects who come on their
territory, regardless of where the torture took place. US failure to
conduct its own thorough and credible investigations into CIA torture
means that other governments should take steps to investigate these crimes.
“In the face of the Obama administration’s refusal to investigate and
prosecute senior officials responsible for these serious crimes, other
countries should proceed,” Roth said. “If President Obama won’t prevent
a dangerous precedent of impunity for torture, other countries should
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