June 26, 2008

Group Calls For Government Officials Who Authorized Torture To Be Held Accountable

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK - On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the American Civil Liberties Union calls on the United States government to appoint an independent prosecutor for U.S. torture crimes, to put an end to practices that involve torture and abuse and to fulfill its obligations under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). The CAT, ratified by the U.S. in 1994, forbids governments from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon those under their control, prohibits the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and bars the transfer or the rendition of persons to countries where they could be at risk of being tortured.

"Deliberate decisions within the highest levels of U.S. government to sidestep the torture convention have led to a total erosion of human rights," said Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU Human Rights Program. "It is time to appoint an independent prosecutor for torture crimes and hold high ranking government officials accountable for their role in the widespread, systemic torture and abuse of prisoners."

A report released in May by the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General (OIG) revealed that officials at the highest level of government — including the White House — were made aware of the abuse of prisoners in U.S. military custody overseas as early as 2002. According to the OIG report, senior administration officials failed to stop torture and abuse even after being made aware of it.

Earlier this month, Major General Antonio Taguba, who led the U.S. Army's official investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, called for those who ordered the use of torture to be held accountable for breaking the law. In the preface to "Broken Laws, Broken Lives," a report from Physicians for Human Rights on the medical evidence that the United States has committed torture, Major General Taguba wrote that government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations have made clear that the current administration has violated international law and that "the only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

And on Tuesday, 15 veteran interrogators retired from the U.S. military, the FBI and the CIA issued a statement declaring torture and abusive interrogation methods "ineffective and counterproductive."

"The government is ignoring the calls of government inspectors, retired military leaders and prominent human rights organizations to overturn policies that allow for torture. Torture is inhumane, illegal, and a stain on the reputation of every country that would resort to it," said Dakwar. "The U.S. government must put an end to the extraordinary rendition program; stop trying detainees in a military commission system that allows the admission of evidence possibly obtained through torture; and provide redress to torture victims."

Today the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is holding the latest in a series of three hearings on torture. It is the first time both David Addington, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, and John Yoo, formerly of the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel, are scheduled to testify before Congress on their roles in approving the use of torture. An important focus of the series of hearings has been whether high-level government officials violated federal criminal laws against torture and abuse.

The Justice Department OIG report is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/35403prs20080520.html

"Broken Laws, Broken Lives" is online at: www.brokenlives.info/?page_id=69

The interrogators' statement is online at: www.humanrightsfirst.org/media/etn/2008/alert/313/

An ACLU report to the U.N. Committee Against Torture on the United States' failure to comply with the universal prohibition against torture is online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/25354pub20060427.html

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