UN Official Wants US Administrators Involved in Torture to Be Prosecuted
December 11, 2014
Samuel Oakford / Vice News & Office of the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights
Following publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Bush-era CIA interrogation practices, a top UN expert has called for US officials involved in torture to be prosecuted. Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, declared. "The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy . . . must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes." He noted that they can be tried in any country.
UN Official Wants US Administrators
Involved in Torture to Be Prosecuted
Samuel Oakford / Vice News
(December 9, 2014) -- Following the publication on Tuesday of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Bush-era CIA interrogation practices, a top United Nations expert has called for US officials involved in torture to be prosecuted -- and he says that they can be tried in any country.
"It is now time to take action," Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, declared in a statement. "The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today's report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes."
Emmerson noted that the primary responsibility to prosecute lies with the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney General's Office, but added that "the perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country they may travel to."
"Torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction," he said.
After more than four years of political wrangling, the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 500-page summary of its 6,000-page investigation into the CIA's secret post-9/11 interrogation tactics.
The committee found that the CIA misled the White House and Congress about its treatment of terrorism suspects, and concluded that its methods -- including waterboarding, which led to "series of near drownings," and the subjection of detainees to "rectal rehydration," or rectal feeding, as a form of behavioral control -- were far more brutal than the agency admitted.
In several cases, detainees were deprived of sleep for more than seven days. In another, a partially nude prisoner died of hypothermia after being left chained on the concrete floor of a secret prison in Afghanistan. The committee said that despite CIA claims to the contrary, so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not extract "valuable" information from detainees that would have been impossible to obtain by other means.
"This document examines the CIA's secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques -- in some cases amounting to torture," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), who chaired the committee, said.
In addition to alleged torture orchestrated and carried out by American officials, the UN has criticized the US this year over NSA spying, police brutality, and the denial of basic human rights to residents of Detroit who had their water shut off.
Emerson said the Senate report proves the US violated international law -- specifically the UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances. The US has signed and ratified the UN's torture convention, but has not approved the latter.
"The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the US government provides no excuse whatsoever," added Emmerson. "Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.
He said that in addition to CIA officials, the Attorney General's Office should prosecute members of the Bush administration that have publicly admitted involvement in the agency's programs.
"The heaviest penalties should be reserved for those most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorization of these crimes," he remarked.
Follow Samuel Oakford on Twitter: @samueloakford
Senate torture report finds the CIA was less effective and more brutal than anyone knew. Read more here.
The Senate is not happy that the CIA censored its report on CIA torture. Read more here.
UN Expert Calls for Prosecution of
CIA Officers and Other US Government Officials
Office of the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights
GENEVA (December 9, 2014) -- Statement by United Nations Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, concerning the publication of the summary of the Feinstein report on crimes committed by the Bush-era CIA:
“I welcome the belated publication of the summary report by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence into the crimes of torture and enforced disappearance of terrorist suspects by the Bush-era CIA. It has taken four years since the report was finalised to reach this point. The Administration is to be commended for resisting domestic pressure to suppress these important findings.
In my 2013 report* to the Human Rights Council as SpeciaI Rapporteur, I called on the US Government to release the report without further delay, and to ensure that it was published in full, without excessive and unnecessary redactions.
The summary of the Feinstein report which was released this afternoon confirms what the international community has long believed -- that there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law.
The identities of the perpetrators, and many other details, have been redacted in the published summary report but are known to the Select Committee and to those who provided the Committee with information on the programme.
It is now time to take action. The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today's report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes.
The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US Government provides no excuse whatsoever. Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.
International law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture. This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes.
As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice. The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.
It is no defence for a public official to claim that they were acting on superior orders. CIA officers who physically committed acts of torture therefore bear individual criminal responsibility for their conduct, and cannot hide behind the authorisation they were given by their superiors.
However, the heaviest penalties should be reserved for those most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorisation of these crimes. Former Bush Administration officials who have admitted their involvement in the programme should also face criminal prosecution for their acts.
President Obama made it clear more than five years ago that the US Government recognises the use of waterboarding as torture. There is therefore no excuse for shielding the perpetrators from justice any longer. The US Attorney General is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.
Torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction. The perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country they may travel to. However, the primary responsibility for bringing them to justice rests with the US Department of Justice and the Attorney General.”
(*) Check the Special Rapporteur's full report:
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Ben Emmerson (United Kingdom) is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.
On 1 August 2011, he took up his functions on the mandate that was created in 2005 by the former United Nations Commission on Human, renewed by the UN Human Rights Council for a three year period in December 2007, in September 2010 and again in March 2013. As Special Rapporteur he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.
Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.