Torture report: Rights groups call for prosecutions

Human rights groups called Tuesday for the criminal prosecution of US officials after a Senate report detailed a CIA torture program that was far more brutal than previously known.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 10, 2014, 01:15 AM IST

Washington: Human rights groups called Tuesday for the criminal prosecution of US officials after a Senate report detailed a CIA torture program that was far more brutal than previously known.

The groups said the report shows the Central Intelligence Agency`s secret efforts to extract information from detainees after the 9/11 attacks repeatedly violated international law and basic human rights.

"This is a shocking report, and it is impossible to read it without feeling immense outrage that our government engaged in these terrible crimes," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The government officials who authorized illegal activity need to be held accountable."

Amnesty International said the report makes clear that the CIA was acting unlawfully "from day one" and its brutal interrogations were not a rogue operation.

Steven Hawkins, executive director of Amnesty`s US branch, said the program "gave the green light to commit the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance -- with impunity. It`s time for accountability, including a full investigation, prosecutions and remedy for victims."

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said the report "shows the repeated claims that harsh measures were needed to protect Americans are fiction."

He noted that President Barack Obama`s administration has ended many of the practices described graphically in the report.

But he added: "Unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of the officials responsible, torture will remain a `policy option` for future presidents."

The ACLU urged the Obama administration to take several steps to redress the abuses described in the report "and help ensure that the United States never tortures again."

The first step would be for the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor to examine "the role played by the senior officials most responsible for it and by those who tried to cover up crimes."

"If there is sufficient evidence of criminal conduct, the offenders should be prosecuted," it said.

A second step, it said, is to reform the CIA, including forbidding it from holding anyone in its custody or operating detention centers like those where the torture took place.

It also said that the government should apologize to and compensate victims of US torture policies, in compliance with international law.

And it called for the release of the fully Senate report -- what was released Tuesday was a 524 page summary of the 6,000 page full report.

But prosecution of anyone appeared doubtful Tuesday.

A Department of Justice official said that since 2009 it had already pursued two investigations into mistreatment of detainees and decided the evidence was not sufficient to obtain a conviction.

The official said investigators have reviewed the Senate report "and did not find any new information that they had not previously considered in reaching their determination."