U.N. Expert On Extrajudicial Killings Calls For Special Prosecutor

May 29, 2009 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings called for a special prosecutor to investigate the policies and practices that have led to unlawful deaths and other abuses in the United States’ international operations. In a report made public late yesterday, Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said there have been “chronic and deplorable accountability failures with respect to policies, practices and conduct that led to alleged unlawful killings.”

Alston’s report also highlights issues of unlawful deaths within the U.S. for which the government may be responsible, including flaws in the death penalty system that increase the likelihood that innocent people will be executed and deaths in immigration detention.

The following can be attributed to Jamil Dakwar, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Human Rights Program:

“The special rapporteur’s report presents a critical opportunity for the Obama administration to examine government policies that have led to unlawful deaths at home and abroad, and we are hopeful the president will take seriously the report’s recommendations. The administration should demand an end to the pervasive culture of impunity for officials in U.S.-run prisons and immigrant detention facilities. Those responsible for deaths there should be held accountable. The administration must also address the lack of due process that severely increases the chance that our government will execute innocent people. To claim the moral high ground and assert leadership on the issue of human rights, we must first shine a bright light on the policies of the U.S. government that have led to unlawful deaths.”

Alston’s report includes several recommendations for the U.S. government to address unlawful killings:

• ensuring that imposition of the death penalty complies with fundamental due process requirements;
• providing greater transparency into law enforcement, military and intelligence operations that result in potentially unlawful deaths;
• investigating and punishing unlawful deaths in U.S. international operations;
• promptly and publicly reporting and investigating all deaths in immigration detention and ensuring medical care consistent with international standards;
• adhering to due process requirements under international human rights and humanitarian law in the prosecution of Guantánamo detainees; and
• releasing complete and unredacted investigations and autopsy results into the deaths of Guantánamo detainees to family members.

The special rapporteur, whose mandate is to investigate any killing that violates international human rights and humanitarian law, toured the United States on a fact-finding mission in June 2008, meeting with federal and local government officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations. He will present his findings at the next session of the U.N. Human Rights Council beginning next week. The United States will participate as a member for the first time since the Council’s inception.

An advance copy of the report is available online at: www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/11session/ (pdf)

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