USA: New report on 'war on terror' calls for Bush and Kerry to tackle 'made in America' torture

Neither presidential candidate mentioned the issue in three televised presidential debates.

The call came as Amnesty International launched a major new 200-page report - Human Dignity Denied: Torture and accountability in the “war on terror” mapping the extent of US torture and ill-treatment across the globe since 11 September 2001.

Six months on from the publication of photographs showing torture at Abu Ghraib, Amnesty International’s report challenges the notion of torture being committed by “just a few bad apples” and shows that there is still huge scope for it to take place again because the US government has failed to significantly alter policies that have allowed and even promoted torture in breach of its own legal obligations.

The report provides over 65 specific recommendations to the US authorities for tackling torture and offers a 12-point Program for the Prevention of Torture by Agents of the State.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Six months on from the emergence of sickening images of torture at Abu Ghraib the US government has failed to tackle torture - in fact the conditions that allowed it to infect their military operations are largely unchanged.

“After 11 September 2001 senior US officials began giving the green light to torture - authorising hooding, stripping, isolation, ‘stress’ positions, sensory deprivation and the use of dogs in interrogations.

“It has been a case of proclaim your opposition to torture in public, while in private discuss how your President can order torture and how government agents can escape criminal liability for torture.

‘“War on terror’ torture is ‘made in America torture’: the presidential hopefuls now need to publicly commit to allowing a comprehensive and independent commission of inquiry into all torture allegations.”

The report critically examines justifications used by senior members of the US government for aggressive interrogation and abusive treatment and highlights the use of incommunicado and secret detention - in some cases amounting to “disappearance”.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is singled out for criticism, not least for articulating the US government’s selective disregard for the Geneva Conventions.

The report notes that the US’s three-year descent into authorising torture has involved the coining of new euphemisms for torture such as “stress and duress” and “incentive and removal”.

Similarly, “GITMO-ize” has been used as a reference to reproducing the harsh regime of Guantánamo Bay - use of short-chain shackling and deafeningly loud music - in Abu Ghraib.

Amnesty International’s report specifically refutes notions:

  • that torture has been adequately investigated,
  • that only a “few bad apples” or “night-shift freelancers” were involved, or
  • that US military and political policy is now to firmly to prevent ‘war on terror’ torture.

Even the recent US Department of Defense-appointed Schlesinger report persisted in justifying as “essential” so-called “aggressive interrogation” while maintaining “what constitutes ‘humane treatment’ lies in the eye of the beholder.” It did this even while stating that there had already been over 300 cases of alleged abuse - “many of them beyond Abu Ghraib”.

Amnesty International’s report examines a pattern of official US authorisation of torture and ill-treatment followed by only a partial rescinding of approval of some measures.

Amnesty International remains alarmed, for example, that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is still apparently authorising abusive measures like sleep deprivation and isolation while additionally reserving the right to personally allow any “additional interrogation techniques” in specific cases.

Kate Allen added:

“The US government has failed to come clean over torture. We need to know what secret ‘torture directives’ exist and what is being done to stop anyone else being tortured in US custody.”

Read the report online...

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