Amnesty International - 2005 Annual Report
Calls for Investigation of U.S.
Impunity Imperils Eradication of Cruel
At the launch of its 2005 Annual Report,
Amnesty International called on foreign governments to uphold
their obligations under international law by investigating U.S.
officials implicated in the development or implementation of interrogation
techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading
treatment. While the U.S. government has failed to conduct a genuinely
independent and comprehensive investigation, the officials implicated
in these crimes are nonetheless subject to investigation and possible
arrest by other nations while traveling abroad, the organization
The human rights organization warned
that at least one dozen former or current U.S. officials are vulnerable
to this action. The individuals, who, to date, have either dodged
investigation or escaped sanction, include those at the highest
levels of government, such as President Bush and Secretary of
Defense Rumsfeld, as well as Attorney General Gonzales and former
CIA Director George Tenet. They also include government lawyers
who advocated or approved setting aside critical protections against
torture or recommended interrogation methods that constitute torture
or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as military
officers who implemented those decisions. While the United States
bears primary responsibility for investigating these acts, research
by Amnesty International establishes that more than 125 countries
have legislation permitting investigation of serious crimes committed
outside their borders.
"Tolerance for torture and ill-treatment,
signaled by a failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible,
is the most effective encouragement for it to spread and grow.
Like a virus, the techniques used by the United States will multiply
and spread unless those who plotted their use are held accountable,"
said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International
USA. "The U.S. government's response to the torture scandal
amounts to a whitewash of senior officials' involvement and responsibility.
Those who conducted the abusive interrogations must be held to
account, but so too must those who schemed to authorize those
actions, sometimes from the comfort of government buildings. If
the United States permits the architects of torture policy to
get off scot-free, then other nations should step into the breach."
The Geneva Conventions and the Convention
against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
or Punishment (Convention against Torture) place a legally binding
obligation on states that have ratified them to exercise universal
jurisdiction over persons accused of grave breaches of the Geneva
Conventions and torture or to extradite the suspects to a country
that will. Therefore, if anyone suspected of involvement in the
U.S. torture scandal visits or transits though foreign territories,
governments could take legal steps to ensure that such individuals
are investigated and charged with applicable crimes.
Certain crimes, including torture and
other grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, are so serious
that they amount to an offense against the whole of humanity and
therefore all states have a responsibility to investigate and
prosecute people responsible for these crimes. This principle
applies wherever those suspected of the crimes happen to be, whatever
their nationality or position, regardless of where the crime was
committed and the nationality of the victims, and no matter how
much time has elapsed since the commission of the crime. One of
the best-known applications of this principle was the October
16, 1998, arrest in London of Augusto Pinochet, in connection
with torture and "disappearances" in Chile at a time
when he was president of that country.
Although approximately 125 members of
the U.S. armed forces have either been court-martialed or received
non-judicial punishment or other administrative action, to date
no one in the extended chain of command, including those who formulated
policies on the treatment and interrogation of prisoners, has
been held accountable.
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