UN Court Rules US Guilty of Torture, Abuse
November 13, 2015
Reuters & Wilson Dizard / Al Jazeera America
UN prosecutors claim they have evidence that international forces in Afghanistan subjected detainees to physical and psychological abuse. A UN human rights report urges the US to bring alleged torturers to justice. In 2014, another UN report criticized the US for a host of human rights crimes ranging from jailing the homeless and life-sentences for juveniles to drone assassinations and NSA spying on citizens.
ICC Cites Evidence of International Forces Abusing Afghanistan Detainees
(November 12, 2015) -- UN prosecutors said on Thursday they had evidence suggesting international forces in Afghanistan had caused serious harm to detainees by subjecting them to physical and psychological abuse.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been investigating alleged crimes committed since 2003 by all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, but in previous reports on the status of its inquiry it has been far more circumspect about alleged crimes and the harm caused.
In its latest report on the many preliminary examinations it has open, the court's Office of the Prosecutor said US investigations of alleged crimes by its soldiers had not yielded convictions or risen high up the chain of command.
The determination marks a significant escalation of the court's long-running investigation and could prove controversial in the US, which is not a member of the court and has in the past opposed it vociferously.
"The infliction of 'enhanced interrogation' techniques . . . would have caused serious physical and psychological injury," prosecutors wrote.
They also noted that there was evidence of violations committed by Taliban and forces that supported the Afghan government, adding that neither appeared to be seriously investigating allegations against its own side.
Up to 37,000 civilian casualties had been attributed to anti-government forces since 2007, and pro-government forces appeared to have meted out "gruesome" treatment to some 5,000 detainees, prosecutors said.
They were still trying to determine the gravity and scale of any violations committed by international and US forces, they said.
All NATO members contributed to the International Security Assistance Force mission to Afghanistan that ran from 2001 until last year. Forces from the US and other countries remain in the country on a NATO training exercise.
UN Slams US for Torture, NSA Spying
Wilson Dizard / Al Jazeera America
(March 27, 2014) -- A wide-ranging United Nations report released Thursday strongly criticizes the United States for a host of human rights concerns -- from jailing the homeless and sentencing juveniles to life sentences to drone warfare and spying by the National Security Agency.
While the UN praised some steps the US government has taken, like curbing human trafficking and a 2009 ban on Central Intelligence Agency torture and secret detention, the report's authors found the US wanting on 25 human rights issues.
"The US is adept at demanding human rights change from other governments while failing to meet international standards itself," said José Luis Díaz, Amnesty International's representative at the UN
He welcomed the UN's recommendations on torture transparency and calls for ending the death penalty nationwide as well as limiting the use of solitary confinement in US prisons.
The US "must implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Committee without delay," said Díaz.
Regarding the use of torture, reforming interrogation techniques does not go far enough, according to the U.N's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It called for an investigation and prosecution of members of the "armed forces and other agents of the US government" allegedly involved in torturing detainees. It also urged the US to shutter the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and transfer its prisoners.
"The state party [the United States] should ensure that all cases of unlawful killing, torture or other ill-treatment, unlawful detention or enforced disappearance are effectively, independently and impartially investigated, that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in command positions, are prosecuted and sanctioned and that victims are provided with effective remedies," the report reads.
In light of the NSA spying scandal, the UN called on the US to implement protections against the invasion of privacy of individuals by making public laws that allow for surveillance. Furthermore, it pressed the US to "reform the current system of oversight over surveillance activities" by involving judicial supervision.
Concerned that "those affected have no access to effective remedies in case of abuse," the UN advised the US to create pathways for restitution for people who have been spied on unjustly.
During the course of the UN's investigation, US government representatives argued that spying occurred within legal bounds and that the implementation of new laws had ended torture. State Department official Mary McLeod argued that "substantial oversight" goes into surveillance, according to a Guardian report.
The report also denounced racial disparities in prosecutions and sentencing, including the use of the death penalty and long drug-related prison sentences for African-Americans and Hispanics.
"[The] committee continues to be concerned about racial disparities at different stages in the criminal justice system, sentencing disparities and the overrepresentation of individuals belonging to racial and ethnic minorities in prisons and jails," the report states.
The UN body calls on the US to retroactively implement the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act and close a loophole that allows thousands of nonviolent offenders to languish in federal prisons as a result of draconian drug laws. The report also demands measures to end to racial profiling and praises steps to end New York City's stop-and-frisk program.
US drone strikes overseas also came under attack in the report. The UN expressed deep concern over the impact of unmanned aerial vehicles, saying the US approach to exercising its right to self-defense in carrying out military maneuvers is clouded by a lack of transparency, an unclear definition of when hostilities end and whether someone qualifies as a legitimate target.
The UN recommended the United States "take all feasible measures to ensure the protection of civilians in specific drone attacks and to track and assess civilian casualties as well as all necessary precautionary measures in order to avoid such casualties."
The US, the report concluded, should "establish accountability mechanisms for victims of allegedly unlawful drone attacks who are not compensated by their home governments."
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