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Friday, January 14, 2011

Human Rights First Issues Administration Report Card; Decries Lack of Torture Accountability.

Alliance for Justice ally Human Rights First has issued a report card, “Assessing the Obama Administration’s Record of Compliance with the Rule of Law and Human Rights in National Security Policy.” While the report gives President Obama an A- for standing firm against the use of torture, it gives the president a failing grade on accountability for torture. The report card notes that the failure to provide accountability for torture “is a violation of international law and diminishes the credibility of the United States as standard-bearer for human rights worldwide.”

The report card also looks at other policy areas, including: standing firm against secret detention sites; closing the Guantanamo Bay prison; transferring GTMO detainees cleared for release; trying suspects in federal court; ending the use of military commissions; ending indefinite detention; stopping the abuse of the state secrets privilege; providing due process in Afghanistan; providing accountability and oversight of security contractors; ensuring transparency and lawfulness in the use of targeted killings; and reigning in the use of extraordinary rendition.

The report concludes with eight recommendations the Administration should act upon to ensure that the rule of law and human rights are protected. A PDF of the report card is available for download here. Below are excerpts from the report card pertaining to torture:
Grade: A-

Standing Firm Against Use of Torture and Detainee Abuse. The Obama Administration clearly denounced policies of torture and detainee abuse and reinforced the primacy of the Geneva Conventions in the treatment of prisoners. The administration established a High Value Interrogation Group to ensure effective interrogation of detainees using lawful interrogation methods. There remain legitimate concerns about various interrogation techniques that are permitted by Appendix M of the Army Field Manual that are inconsistent with the Geneva Conventions requirement of humane treatment.

Grade: F

Accountability for Torture. Torture and conspiracy to commit torture are felonies under U.S. law. Yet the United States has failed to hold accountable those who authorized and perpetrated torture against prisoners in U.S. custody. In November 2010, the Justice Department announced that there would be no prosecutions for destruction of CIA tapes that allegedly recorded acts of torture committed by employees or agents of the United States. Special Prosecutor John Durham has yet to release his report on the investigation into whether crimes were committed by U.S. officials during any interrogations that included “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding, a well-known form of torture. The failure to hold accountable those responsible for acts of torture and to provide redress to victims (see “State Secrets” below) is a violation of international law and diminishes the credibility of the United States as standard-bearer for human rights worldwide.
AFJ has long believed that accountability for torture is necessary to ensure that these gross human rights abuses do not happen again and to restore our country’s reputation as a nation of laws. The AFJ film Tortured Law explores the role government lawyers played in authorizing torture, and calls for a full-scale investigation of those who ordered and justified torture.

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