Amnesty International Calls for International Investigation of US Torture


5-26-05, 10:45 am

A report released by Amnesty International this week characterized the Bush administration’s 'war on terror' as making 'a mockery of President George Bush’s claims that the USA was the global champion of human rights.'

Torture at Abu Ghraib and 'mounting evidence of the torture and ill-treatment of detainees' held in US custody 'sent an unequivocal message to the world that human rights may be sacrificed ostensibly in the name of security,' the highly regarded human rights agency noted.

Continued mistreatment of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, even after court orders demanded the administration alter its practices there, showed 'a marked ambivalence to the opinion of expert bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and even of its own highest judicial body.'

The Bush administration delayed in obeying court orders to provide prisoners with some rights, such as having their cases addressed in courts. Some prisoners remained in secret custody in undisclosed locations. Amnesty characterized this practice as tantamount to 'disappearance.'

Amnesty International called on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating US officials implicated in the development or implementation of interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The urgency of an international investigation arises from the failure of the US administration ' to conduct a genuinely independent and comprehensive investigation.'

'Tolerance for torture and ill-treatment, signaled by a failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible, is the most effective encouragement for it to spread and grow,' said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA.

Schulz added, 'The U.S. government’s response to the torture scandal amounts to a whitewash of senior officials’ involvement and responsibility. Those who conducted the abusive interrogations must be held to account, but so too must those who schemed to authorize those actions, sometimes from the comfort of government buildings.'
The trials of a handful of low-level personnel don’t adequately cover the responsibility of high-ranking military officials and politicians who developed abusive policies and rubber-stamped techniques of interrogation that break the Geneva Conventions and other international agreements that govern the treatment of prisoners of war.

According to an Amnesty statement, 'Certain crimes, including torture and other grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, are so serious that they amount to an offense against the whole of humanity and therefore all states have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute people responsible for these crimes.'

Further, Bush’s foreign policy encouraged the blurring of the role of the military and domestic police forces in many countries that received aid and support from the administration. The administration’s demand for support for its 'war on terror' encouraged countries, such as the Colombian regime to target political opposition in that country under the guise of fighting terrorism while receiving billions in military aid from the Bush administration.

The human rights organization also chastised the US for pressuring governments to accept 'unlawful immunity agreements' shielding US personnel from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The rules governing the jurisdiction of the ICC state explicitly that its jurisdiction extends to countries only when the appropriate authorities in those countries fail to investigate and prosecute adequately those accused of war crimes and other atrocities.

According to Amnesty, 12 countries refused to sign such immunity agreements and as a result '10 had some military aid suspended as a result. In November the US Congress threatened to cut off development aid to countries that refused to sign.'

On the domestic scene, the US continued to flout international human rights standards by inflicting the death penalty on child offenders, people with mental disabilities, defendants without access to effective legal representation, and foreign nationals denied their consular rights. In 2004, 59 executions were carried out by a capital justice system characterized by arbitrariness, discrimination and error. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan described Amnesty’s report as 'ridiculous' and offered the Bush administration’s record of meager support for the global fight against HIV/AIDS as a sign of the administration’s compassion.

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