Report calls for prosecution of top government officials for acts of torture

Drew Gores, People’s Blog For The Constitution, Jan 11 2012

Today, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, people across the United States are standing in protest against the unlawful detention and torture of people presumed to be guilty in the “war on terror.” It is hard to believe that sites such as Guantánamo and Bagram are still open, and that the high-ranking US government officials that authorized detainment and torture at these centers have never been held accountable for their crimes.

For those who would like to see torturers brought to justice, a recent report issued by Human Rights USA and the American University Washington College of Law International Human Rights Law Clinic, INDEFENSIBLE: A Reference for Prosecuting Torture and Other Felonies Committed By U.S. Officials Following September 11th, is a step in the right direction. The report details the way in which the Bush administration issued policies which authorized abuse and created a legal rationale in support of illegal interrogation techniques, and calls for the investigation and prosecution of senior officials responsible for torture.

INDEFENSIBLE explains precisely how top-level government officials broke both US and international laws by endorsing torture. International laws such as Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and CAT, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, outlaw torture under all circumstances.

Under US law, the federal War Crimes Act prohibits certain war crimes included in the Geneva Conventions, while the federal torture statute (“the Torture Act”) “penalizes the commission, attempted commission, or conspiracy to commit torture.” The report notes that Bush administration officials can be prosecuted for violating federal criminal law, including a variety of crimes against the person (torture, murder, manslaughter, maiming, assault, rape, sexual assault or abuse, kidnapping, deprivation of rights, and stalking), obstruction of justice, and violation of the Federal Conspiracy Statute.

The report concludes that prosecution of these crimes is necessary in order to prevent future human rights abuses:

Unless meaningful accountability is achieved and the rights of those who have been tortured are vindicated, there remains a real and undeniable possibility that these illegal and abhorrent acts will be repeated in the future.

BORDC’s Executive Director Shahid Buttar came to a similar conclusion while raising the specter of torture of Americans detained under powers recently granted by the National Defense Authorization Act:

In a system of preventive detention, in which torture is available to future administrations (or poorly trained 18 year-olds) as an option, what will constrain torture from recurring? Even with a policy discouraging torture, the established lack of accountability ensures its inevitable recurrence.
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