ACLU Calls For Greater Accountability For Unlawful Deaths In U.S. Custody

June 30, 2008 12:00 am

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Special Rapporteur’s Visit Underscores Need For Increased Government Transparency

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the United States government to heed the concerns of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, whose mission includes reporting on alleged killings in the U.S. and overseas for which U.S. government and military officials may be responsible and the failure to prosecute and punish those responsible, announced his preliminary findings after touring the U.S. at the invitation of the U.S. government.

The following can be attributed to Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program:

“The preliminary findings of the special rapporteur’s investigation make clear that the U.S. must implement policies to prevent deaths in its custody and prosecute those who are responsible for those deaths and other inhumane and cruel treatment of detainees at home and abroad. These findings also present a critical opportunity to address civilian deaths caused by U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. We look forward to the full report of the special rapporteur and more importantly to the U.S. government’s much needed action to restore the rule of law and humanity to U.S.-run prisons and detention facilities.”

The subjects of the special rapporteur’s visit and investigation included due process violations in the administration of the death penalty, especially in Texas and Alabama; deaths in immigration detention; deaths in U.S. custody in Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan; and alleged killings of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. military forces and government private contractors.

According to the special rapporteur, the issue that emerged during his visit is “the need for greater transparency” in dealing with potentially unlawful killings. According to his statement, the special rapporteur was frequently told by government officials that although they were unable to answer his specific questions, he should “rest assured that there was accountability.”

“Whether or not it does in fact exist, this ‘private’ or ‘internal’ accountability cannot take the place of genuine, public accountability. A government open and accountable to its people is a foundational premise of a democratic state,” said Special Rapporteur Alston.

The special rapporteur’s statement is available online at:

Earlier this month, the ACLU submitted a related report, “Capital Punishment in the United States,” to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. That report is available online at:

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