CIA torture: UN, rights groups call for prosecutions

CIA torture: UN, rights groups call for prosecutions
4 min read
10 December, 2014
A US Senate report, the first public accounting of tactics employed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, reveals a horrific catalogue of abuses amounting to torture, triggering widespread condemnation and calls to prosecute those responsible.

The United States brutalised, beaten, sexually abused and humiliated  scores of terror detainees with interrogation tactics that turned secret CIA prisons into chambers of torture, and did nothing to make America safer after the 9/11 attacks, Senate investigators concluded Tuesday. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report, years in the making, accused the CIA of misleading its political masters about what it was doing with its "black site" captives, and deceiving Americans about the effectiveness of its techniques. 

Five hundred pages were released, representing the executive summary and conclusions of a still-classified 6,700-page full investigation. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic committee chairman whose staff prepared the summary, branded the findings a stain on U.S. history. 

"Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured," she declared, commanding the Senate floor for an extended accounting of the techniques identified in the investigation.

But the "enhanced interrogation techniques" didn't produce the results that really mattered, the report asserts in its most controversial conclusion. It cites CIA cables, emails and interview transcripts to rebut the central justification for torture that it thwarted terror plots and saved American lives.

Torture tactics

The report released Tuesday was the first public accounting of tactics employed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Tactics included confinement to small boxes, weeks of sleep deprivation, simulated drowning, slapping and slamming, and threats to kill, harm or sexually abuse families of the captives.

President Barack Obama declared some of the past practices to be "brutal, and as I've said before, constituted torture in my mind. And that's not who we are," he told the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo in an interview.

Obama said releasing the report was important "so that we can account for it, so that people understand precisely why I banned these practices as one of the first acts I took when I came into office, and hopefully make sure that we don't make those mistakes again."

Damning verdict 

The report was greeted with widespread disgust and revulsion, challenges to its veracity among some lawmakers and a sharp debate about whether it should have been released at all. 

Republican Sen. John McCain  was out of step with some fellow Republicans in welcoming the report and endorsing its findings. 

"We gave up much in the expectation that torture would make us safer," McCain said in a Senate speech. "Too much." 

The committee report accused the CIA of offering a misleading version about what it was doing with its "black site" captives and deceiving the nation about the effectiveness of its techniques."  

UN, rights groups call for prosecutions 

In Geneva, the United Nations' special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said CIA officers and other U.S. government officials should be prosecuted.   

"The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever," Emmerson said in a statement. 

British-based advocacy group CAGE, and other rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Righst Watch, has demanded criminal proceedings following the release  the report. 

"This provides clear evidence for prosecution," said Amanda Thomas-Johnson, a spokesperson for CAGE, which campaigns against the "War on Terror". 

“This kind of dodging of accountability is not new," she added. "We have recorded a series of crimes, identified victims and known perpetrators, but with no redress under the law. This shows that the US and its allies are operating outside the bounds of the law." 

Despite the report, CAGE's Moazzam Begg, a British former detainee at both Bagram airbase and Guantanamo Bay, said "we are not any closer toward accountability.

"In fact there has only been more hate and suspicion directed at former detainees who are probably the most interrogated people on the face of the earth," he added.

"These things are still happening today. Guantanamo is still open, as is Bagram, while renditions and disappearances by the Americans are still widespread.

"The rules of the game have certainly changed. Not just for the West, but for everyone."

Fellow former Guantanamo detainee Shafiq Rasul said there seemed to be "a law for the Muslims and a law for the non-Muslims." 

US diplomatic missions on alert 

The report, released after months of negotiations with the administration about what should be censored, was issued as U.S. embassies and military sites worldwide strengthened security in case of an anti-American backlash.

The U.S. embassies in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Thailand warned of the potential for anti-American protests and violence after the release of the Senate report.

The embassies also advised Americans in the three countries to take appropriate safety precautions, including avoiding demonstrations. 

Earlier this year, Feinstein accused the CIA of infiltrating Senate computer systems in a dispute over documents as relations between the investigators and the spy agency deteriorated, the issue still sensitive years after Obama ordered a halt to any such interrogation practices upon taking office.