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Torture, rendition, and other abuses against captives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere

 
  

Project: Prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

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November 19, 2001

       Scorching criticism of President Bush's Executive Order (see November 13, 2001) comes from the Center for National Security Studies, which says it “violates separation of powers as the creation of military commissions has not been authorized by the Congress and is outside the president's constitutional powers.” The order is also an “unconstitutional attempt to suspend the writ of habeas corpus.” [Center for National Security Studies, 11/19/2001] Law professor Kathleen Clark similarly states: “These military tribunals are troubling in many respects, particularly in their denial of basic due process protection for defendants. But even apart from this question of civil liberties, this presidential order is unconstitutional because the president lacks the authority under the constitution and statutory law to create this kind of court.” [11/19/2001]
People and organizations involved: US Congress  Additional Info 
          

May 2003

       Eight high-ranking military lawyers from the Army Judge Advocate General's office—which historically has ensured that interrogators do not violate prisoners' rights—visit Scott Horton, head of the New York State Bar Association's committee on international law, and ask him to persuade the Pentagon to reverse its policy on using “stress and duress” interrogation techniques (see Late 2002-April 2003) (see April 16, 2003). “They were quite blunt,” Horton will recall. “They were extremely concerned about how the political appointees were dealing with interrogation issues. They said this was a disaster waiting to happen and that they felt shut out” from the rules-drafting process. [The New Yorker, 5/24/2004; Newsday, 5/15/2004; Los Angeles Times, 5/14/2004; Washington Post, 5/13/2004] The lawyers describe the new interrogation rules as “frightening,” with the potential to “reverse 50 years of a proud tradition of compliance with the Geneva Conventions.” [USA Today, 5/13/2004] The military lawyers will make another visit to Horton's office in October (see May 2003).
People and organizations involved: Scott Horton
          

July 2003

       The head of the delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at Guantanamo states that the “seemingly open-ended detention” and the lack of a “clear legal framework” has had an “overall impact on the mental health of the prisoners.” [BBC Radio 4, 7/13/2003 cited in Amnesty International, 8/19/2003] “The uncertainty these detainees face as regards their legal status and their future does have a very adverse impact on their physical and mental well-being,” Red Cross spokeswoman Antonella Notaria says. “A lot of them are pushed to despair. It is a clear indication that these people are under extreme stress and anxiety.” [The Guardian, 7/19/2003]
People and organizations involved: Amnesty International, International Committee of the Red Cross
          

Early July 2003

       The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Param Cumaraswamy—still awaiting a response from the US government to his urgent appeal (see November 13, 2001) relating to Bush's November 13, 2001 military order (see November 13, 2001) —says: “The Bush administration has not been very responsive to criticisms, and they have become a little intolerant to criticisms about themselves, but they are very free to criticize other governments when they violate human rights norms.” [BBC Radio 4, 7/13/2003 cited in Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]
People and organizations involved: Charles Anteby, Amnesty International, Bush administration
          

September 2003

       The Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights (later known as Human Rights First) notices a “continuing erosion of basic human rights protections under US law and policy” since the 9/11 attacks. The organization states that “governments long criticized for human rights abuses have publicly applauded US policies, which they now see as an endorsement of their own longstanding practices.” As an example, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is cited, who declared shortly after 9/11, that new US policies prove “that we were right from the beginning in using all means, including military tribunals, to combat terrorism. ... There is no doubt that the events of September 11 created a new concept of democracy that differs from the concept that Western states defended before these events, especially in regard to the freedom of the individual.” [Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, September 2003]
People and organizations involved: Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights First
          

October 9, 2003

       The senior International Red Cross official in Washington, Christophe Girod, tells the New York Times: “The open-endedness of the situation [at Guantanamo] and its impact on the mental health of the population has become a major problem.” He makes this unusual public statement because previous private communications with the US government has not yielded results. “One cannot keep these detainees in this pattern, this situation, indefinitely,” Girod says. White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, says: “These individuals are terrorists or supporters of terrorism and we are at war on terrorism and the reasons for detaining enemy combatants in the first place is to gather intelligence and make sure that these enemy combatants don't return to help our enemies plot attacks or carry out attacks on the United States.” In the past 18 months, 21 detainees have made 32 suicide attempts. More detainees are treated for depression. [BBC, 10/10/2003]
People and organizations involved: International Committee of the Red Cross, Scott McClellan, Christophe Girod
          

December 2, 2003

       The investigative team commissioned by Gen. Barbara Fast (see Fall 2003) arrives in Iraq for a week-long stay. Ten days later, Col. Stuart A. Herrington, who heads the team, delivers a report warning that rounding up innocent civilians in Iraq and mistreating them will be “counterproductive ... to win the cooperation of the Iraqi citizenry.” [Washington Post, 12/1/2004]
People and organizations involved: Stuart A. Herrington, Barbara G. Fast
          

December 3, 2003

       In an article published by the Guardian of London, Daryl Matthews, a forensic psychiatrist who worked at Guantanamo, describes the difference between Guantanamo and an ordinary US prison. “[A]t Guantanamo there's an added level of stress, and I think that is the thing that's somewhat unique. Inmates in a normal prison are focused on how much time they are going to serve, on contacting their lawyers, on being able to take constructive efforts to get out; these are important ways prisoners deal with the stress of confinement, and these guys can't do anything.” [The Guardian, 12/3/2003]
People and organizations involved: Daryl Matthews
          

December 12, 2003

       Col. Stuart A. Herrington, the head of an investigative commission charged with providing recommendations for improving intelligence and detention operations (see Fall 2003), issues a confidential 13-page report in which he documents several instances of abuse in Iraqi detention facilities. Herrington advises Gen. Barbara Fast that intelligence capabilities need to be significantly improved. Given that many detainees have been rounded up in Iraq, he concludes it is “disappointing that the opportunity to thoroughly and professionally exploit this source pool has not been maximized, in spite of your best efforts and those of several hundred MI [military intelligence] soldiers. Even one year ago, we would have salivated at the prospect of being able to talk to people like the hundreds who are now in our custody. Now that we have them, we have failed to devote the planning and resources to optimize this mission.” In addition, Herrington notices the practice of abusing prisoners. He specifically mentions Joint Task Force (JTF) 121. Some of its practices during arrest and detention, he writes, could “technically” be termed illegal. JTF-121 members are found to be abusing detainees throughout Iraq and to be using a secret interrogation facility. Captives delivered at Abu Ghraib have clearly been beaten. “Detainees captured by TF-121 have shown injuries that caused examining medical personnel to note that ‘detainee shows signs of having been beaten’.” Herrington concludes: “It seems clear that TF-121 needs to be reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees.” Sweeping roundups of Iraqis and their mistreatment will be “counterproductive ... to win the cooperation of the Iraqi citizenry.” The report also mentions the practice of “Other Government Agencies,” referring to the CIA, creating so-called “ghost detainees” by not formally registering them when they are taken into custody. [Washington Post, 12/1/2004]
People and organizations involved: Stuart A. Herrington, Barbara G. Fast
          

February 24, 2004

       The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) files a report with Coalition Authorities complaining that its soldiers and intelligence officers have been arresting and detaining Iraqis without cause, routinely using excessive force during the initial stages of detention, and subjecting prisoners to extreme physical and emotional abuse. The report is based on 29 visits to 14 detention centers in Iraq between March 31 and October 24, 2003, during which time ICRC workers privately interviewed thousands of prisoners. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004; Washington Post, 5/12/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs] Among its findings:
According to “certain CF (Coalition Forces) military intelligence officers,” 70 to 90 percent of the detainees being held in captivity were “arrested by mistake.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Captives were not informed of the reason for their arrest or provided with access to legal counsel. “They were often questioned without knowing what they were accused of. They were not allowed to ask questions and were not provided with an opportunity to seek clarification about the reason for their arrest.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

There were eight instances in which American guards shot at their captives resulting in seven prisoner deaths and 18 injuries. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

During the initial stages of captivity, prisoners were subjected to brutality which sometimes caused serious injury or death. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were subjected to physical and psychological coercion, which in “some cases was tantamount to torture.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were kept in prolonged solitary confinement in cells in complete darkness. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prison guards and soldiers used excessive and disproportionate use of force. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners being held in Unit 1A of Abu Ghraib were kept “completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness.” Some of the prisoners were forced into “acts of humiliation such as being made to stand naked against the wall of the cell with arms raised or with women's underwear over the [sic] heads for prolonged periods—while being laughed at by guards, including female guards, and sometimes photographed in this position.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners' hands were often bound with flexi-cuffs so tightly that the captive incurred skin wounds and nerve damage. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Soldiers pressed prisoners' faces into the ground with their combat boots. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were beaten with pistols and rifles and were slapped, punched, or kicked with knees or boots. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were threatened with execution and transferred to Guantanamo. Some captives were told that their family members would be harmed. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were deprived of adequate sleep, food, water, and access to open air. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were subjected to forced and prolonged exposure to hot sun on days when the temperature exceed 120 degrees. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Interviews with military intelligence officers confirmed that “methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Iraqi police, operating under control of the US, turned people over to Coalition Forces for refusing to pay bribes. [New York Times (Editorial), 5/12/2004]

          

May 4, 2004

       Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller says during a Coalition Provisional Authority briefing that while physical contact between the interrogator and detainees is prohibited, “sleep deprivation and stress positions and all that could be used—but they must be authorized.” (see April 16, 2003) But as Amnesty International later notes in a letter to George Bush, “The United Nations Committee against Torture, the expert body established by the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has expressly held that restraining detainees in very painful positions, hooding, threats, and prolonged sleep deprivation are methods of interrogation which violate the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.” [Amnesty International, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Geoffrey D. Miller, George W. Bush, Amnesty International
          

May 10, 2004

       Islam Online stresses the viewpoint of one former Abu Ghraib prisoner, with the pseudonym of Abu Abdul Rahman, that “the afflictions of the US occupiers dwarfed the torture and oppression of the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein.” [Islam Online, 5/10/2004]
People and organizations involved: Saddam Hussein, Abu Abdul Rahman
          

May 14, 2004

       Amnesty International publishes a report titled, “Iraq: One year on the human rights situation remains dire,” which documents a pattern of human rights violations being committed by US forces in Iraq. “Many detainees have alleged they were tortured and ill-treated by US and UK troops during interrogation,” the report says. “Methods often reported include prolonged sleep deprivation; beatings; prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright lights. Virtually none of the allegations of torture or ill-treatment has been adequately investigated.” [Sources: Iraq: One year on the human rights situation remains dire]
People and organizations involved: Amnesty International
          

May 26, 2004

       In its annual report, titled “Why human rights matter,” Amnesty International says that America's war on terrorism has “made the world a more dangerous place.” This is the consequence of “the US seeking to put itself outside the ambit of judicial scrutiny,” the organization says. Furthermore, “[s]acrificing human rights in the name of security at home, turning a blind eye to abuses abroad, and using pre-emptive military force where and when it chooses, have neither increased security nor ensured liberty,” the report adds. Practicing and apparently condoning torture, according to Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan, has resulted in the US having “lost its high moral ground and its ability to lead on peace and elsewhere.” The practice of violating human rights and the war in Iraq is believed to have a broader influence than on the immediate victims. “The war in Iraq,” the report says, “has diverted global attention from other human rights abuses around the world.” [BBC, 5/26/2004 Sources: ACLU et al. v. Department of Defense et al., 7/6/2004]
People and organizations involved: Amnesty International, Irene Khan
          

June 2004

       Critics in the Senate argue that the Bush administration created an atmosphere of legal permissiveness that led to the abusive treatment of detainees. Senator Edward Kennedy says he believes that the April 2003 Pentagon memo laid the foundations for abuse. “We know when we have these kinds of orders what happens,” he says, “we get the stress test, we get the use of dogs, we get the forced nakedness that we've all seen and we get the hooding.” [The Guardian, 6/9/2004] Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democrat member of the Senate subcommittee on foreign operations, says, the “cruel and degrading treatment” in Afghanistan “were part of a wider pattern stemming from a White House attitude that ‘anything goes’ in the war against terrorism, even if it crosses the line of illegality.” [The Guardian, 6/23/2004]
People and organizations involved: Edward Kennedy, Bush administration, Patrick Leahy
          

June 2004

       In a confidential June 2004 report, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) alleges that the techniques used at Guantanamo are “tantamount to torture.” According to the report, the system in place at Guantanamo is designed to break the will of detainees by making them totally dependent on their interrogators through “humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions.” In addition, the organization writes, detainees are subjected to “some beatings.” These methods, according to the ICRC, are increasingly “more refined and repressive” in comparison to what is observed during earlier missions. The report concludes: “The construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture.” [New York Times, 11/30/2004]
People and organizations involved: International Committee of the Red Cross
          

June 9, 2004

       The memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and the Pentagon Working Group cause a flow of criticism when they are revealed in May and June 2004. The Washington Post fumes that the news of the “torture memos” “brings shame on American democracy.” [Washington Post (Editorial), 6/9/2004]
          

June 9, 2004

       A Washington Post editorial argues that “the administration's reasoning will provide a ready excuse for dictators, especially those allied with the Bush administration, to go on torturing and killing detainees.” [Washington Post (Editorial), 6/9/2004]
People and organizations involved: Washington Post
          

June 21, 2004

       Reacting to one of the “torture memos,” Republican representative Frank Wolf of Virginia writes in a letter to the Justice Department: “I am deeply concerned that this memorandum provides legal justification for the US government to commit cruel, inhumane, and degrading acts, including torture, on prisoners in US custody.” [NBC News, 6/23/2004]
People and organizations involved: Frank Wolf
          

June 23, 2004

       Senator Ernest F. Hollings writes: “Heretofore, the world looked to the United States to do the right thing. No more. The United States has lost its moral authority.” [Truthout, 6/23/2004]
People and organizations involved: Ernest F. Hollings
          

July 2004

       Scott Horton of the New York City Bar Association says that investigations by the Pentagon “have a reputation for tending to whitewash, but even taking this into account, the current investigations seem to be setting new standards.” He adds: “Rumsfeld has completely rigged the investigations. My friends say we should expect something much akin to the army inspector general's report— ‘just a few rotten apples.’ ” [The Guardian, 9/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Scott Horton, Donald Rumsfeld
          

Mid-May 2004

       In response to what the five Britons released from Guantanamo (see March 9, 2004) have claimed about the abuses they suffered during their stay at the US detention camp, John Sifton from Human Rights Watch says, “It is now clear that there is a systemic problem of abuse throughout the US military's detention facilities—not merely misbehavior by a few bad apples.” [The Observer, 5/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: John Sifton
          

August 4, 2004

       More than 300 members of the American Bar Association, including former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and former FBI Director William S. Sessions, sign a statement condemning the “torture memos.” These memos, they write, “ignore and misinterpret the US Constitution and laws, international treaties, and rules of international law.” The statement further denounces the lawyers who wrote them, saying they “have sought to justify actions that violate the most basic rights of all human beings.” [Truthout, 8/29/2004; Cox News Service, 8/5/2004] They tried to “circumvent long established and universally acknowledged principles of law and common decency,” the lawyers charge. [Washington Post, 8/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: William S. Sessions, Nicholas Katzenbach
          

August 9, 2004

       The American Bar Association warns that the “widespread pattern of abusive detention methods” have helped to “feed terrorism by painting the United States as an arrogant nation above the law.” [Associated Press, 8/9/2004]
People and organizations involved: American Bar Association
          

August 18, 2004

       Tim Edgar of the American Civil Liberties Union says the status review tribunals (see July 30, 2004) (see August 2004) (see August 24, 2004) being held at Guantanamo amount to “second-class tribunals, the likes of which we haven't seen since World War II.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/18/2004]
People and organizations involved: Tim Edgar
          

September 2004

       The UK's prominent Chatham House warns of a further deterioration of the security situation in Iraq, predicting that the “legacy of the revelations of prisoner abuse will not fade easily and it will not be enough for US and British forces simply to say that they are dealing with this issue internally.” The London think tank says that if Iraqis are not afforded a means to seek redress, “the impulse to settle accounts through violence will remain.” [Chatham House, 9/2004]
People and organizations involved: Chatham House
          

September 2, 2004

       A Los Angeles Times editorial says the recent hearings before a military commission in Guantanamo (see July 30, 2004) (see August 2004) (see August 24, 2004) are “slapdash preliminary hearings,” which “violated basic tenets of fairness.” They resembled “something between a Mel Brooks farce and the kangaroo courts of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin,” the paper says. [Los Angeles Times (Editorial), 9/2/2004]
          

September 2, 2004

       Human Rights Watch says trials being held in Guantanamo before military commissions are “fundamentally flawed” and “fall far short of international due process standards.” [Human Rights Watch, 1/9/2004]
People and organizations involved: Human Rights Watch
          

Early October 2004

       Lt. Col. Anthony Christino III, a 20-year military intelligence veteran who spent six months in 2003 working as “senior watch officer” with a Joint Intelligence Task Force, says that material he reviewed from Guantanamo indicated that the administration had “wildly exaggerated” the intelligence value of the Guantanamo detainees. The process of screening captives at Bagram for detention at Guantanamo was “hopelessly flawed from the get-go,” he says. The personnel that conducted the screening were “far too poorly trained to identify real terrorists from the ordinary Taliban militia.” Most of the Guantanamo detainees had no connection to al-Qaeda, Christino said, adding that Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller's system would have only produced false confessions. [The Observer, 10/3/2004] He also says it is doubtful that Guantanamo prisoners possessed any important intelligence concerning al-Qaeda. Anyone claiming to have such information probably fabricated it in response to the awards and punishment policy instituted by General Miller. Christino's account is supported by an FBI official whose job it is to track suspected terrorists. The official tells the Guardian, “I'm unaware of any important information in my field that's come from Gitmo. It's clearly not a significant source.” [The Guardian, 10/3/2004]
People and organizations involved: Anthony Christino III, Geoffrey D. Miller
          

October 12, 2004

       A group of more than 650 Western foreign affairs specialists, calling themselves “Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy,” write an “Open Letter to the American People,” which says: “American actions in Iraq, including but not limited to the scandal of Abu Ghraib, have harmed the reputation of the US in most parts of the Middle East and, according to polls, made Osama bin Laden more popular in some countries than is President Bush. This increased popularity makes it easier for al-Qaeda to raise money, attract recruits, and carry out its terrorist operations than would otherwise be the case.” [Security Scholars for a Sensible Foreign Policy, 10/12/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden
          

October 27, 2004

       In a new report on human rights abuses in the US, Amnesty International says that the poor conditions at Guantanamo cause detainees “severe psychological distress.” [Amnesty International, 10/27/2004]
People and organizations involved: Amnesty International
          

October 27, 2004

       Theo van Boven, the UN director of reports on torture, expresses “serious concern” over “allegations of attempts to circumvent the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill treatment in the name of countering terrorism, particularly in relation to the interrogation and conditions of detention of prisoners.” Although he does not mention the US by name, his remarks are evidently aimed at the Bush administration. “The absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill treatment means that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture,” van Boven stresses. “No executive, legislative, administrative, or judicial measure authorizing recourse to torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment can be considered as lawful under international law.” [New York Times, 10/28/2004]
People and organizations involved: Theo van Boven
          

November 2004

       Former US Army officer Phillip Carter points out that the Abu Ghraib scandal will make the battlefield more dangerous. “Those tens of thousands of Iraqis who surrendered during the two Gulf Wars did so because they believed they would be treated better as prisoners by the United States than as soldiers by the Hussein government. But in the wake of Abu Ghraib, more future battles fought by America will have to be fought to the death.” [Washington Monthly, November 2004]
People and organizations involved: Phillip Carter
          

Early November 2004

       Eugene R. Fidell, president of the Washington-based National Institute of Military Justice, says the US is skirting its obligations under the Geneva Conventions. “These are not a meaningful substitute for the competent tribunals required under the Geneva Conventions,” he says. The tribunals, he argues, should have been held in Afghanistan and Pakistan just after the detainees were captured, when evidence and witnesses were still easily obtainable. Commenting on the 104 cases so far reviewed by the tribunal—only one of which resulted in a detainee being released—Fidell sneers: “That's a great battling average, isn't it? They're pitching a nearly perfect game.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Eugene R. Fidell
          

Early November 2004

       Thomas Wilner, the attorney for 12 detainees from Kuwait, says the hearing process underway at Guantanamo “is basically a sham.” says Thomas Wilner, attorney for 12 detainees from Kuwait. [Los Angeles Times, 11/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Thomas Wilner
          

November 2004

       In his November 2004 report, “Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights (director of reports on torture), Theo van Boven, states, “A legal argument of necessity and self-defense, invoking domestic law, have recently been put forward, aimed at providing a justification to exempt officials suspected of having committed or instigated acts of torture against suspected terrorists from criminal liability.” Van Boven adds, “The condoning of torture is, per se, a violation of the prohibition of torture.” [Inter Press Service, 11/11/2004]
People and organizations involved: Theo van Boven
          

November 11, 2004

       Referring to the recent appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general (see November 10, 2004), retired chief judge of the Army Court of Appeals, Brig. Gen. James Cullen, says “When you encounter a person who is willing to twist the law ..., even though for perhaps good reasons, you have to say you're really undermining the law itself.” [The Village Voice, 11/29/2004]
People and organizations involved: James Cullen, Alberto R. Gonzales
          

November 11, 2004

       UN Rapporteur on Torture Theo van Boven completes a 19-page study stating that international conventions apply to wars against terrorism in the same way they apply to conventional wars. The UN report, titled “Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” says fighting terrorism provides no country with the justification to use torture or humiliate prisoners. It criticizes the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, but does not mention the US by name. Van Boven writes in the report that “the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment means that no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as justification for torture.” He denounces the detainment of “thousands of persons suspected of terrorism, including children, [who] have been ... denied the opportunity to have legal status determined and prevented from having access to lawyers.” According to van Boven, the abuses that these detainees have been subjected to—stressful positions; sleep and light deprivation; exposure to extremes of heat, cold, noise and light; hooding; forced nudity; and intimidation by dogs—are all violations of the prohibition on torture and ill-treatment. “Whenever there are serious allegations of torture, investigations are absolutely necessary. And the results of these investigations should be made public because it's absolutely a public affair,” he says. [Inter Press Service, 11/11/2004]
People and organizations involved: Theo van Boven
          

December 1, 2004

       The New York Times says in an editorial, “The White House, the Pentagon, and the Justice Department clearly have no intention of addressing the abuse.” [New York Times (Editorial), 12/1/2004]
People and organizations involved: Gordon England
          

December 5, 2004

       The Washington Post says in an editorial that “Congress has shirked its responsibility.” It points out that no hearings on prisoner abuse have been held since August, no policymaker has been held accountable, and “no legislation has corrected the administration's twisted interpretation of torture or the Geneva Conventions.” The Post says that “the worst aspect of the Abu Ghraib scandal” has been that the system of abuses has “survived its public exposure.” [Washington Post (Editorial), 12/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: US Congress, Washington Post
          

March 1, 2005

       The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights First file a lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the northern district of Illinois, his home state. They do so on behalf of eight men formerly detained in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay who claim to have been tortured. “Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility,” for the former prisoners' treatment, says ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. [CBS News, 3/1/2005] ACLU's Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the lawsuit, says, “Secretary Rumsfeld bears direct and ultimate responsibility for this descent into horror by personally authorizing unlawful interrogation techniques and by abdicating his legal duty to stop torture.” The parties seek a court order declaring that Rumsfeld violated the US Constitution, federal statutes, and international law, and compensatory damages for the inflicted harm that the eight men suffered due to torture, abuse, and degrading treatment. The civil rights groups are joined as co-counsel by a number of prominent legal experts, among them former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, retired Rear Admiral John D. Hutson; former Chief Judge of the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals, retired Brig. Gen. James Cullen; and former Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee. [Human Rights First, 3/1/2005]
People and organizations involved: Bill Lann Lee, Anthony D. Romero, American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights First, Donald Rumsfeld, John D. Hutson, Lucas Guttentag, James Cullen
          


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