‘We still don't know how far Britain was dragged into the mire’ - Kate Allen
A Senate committee report summary detailing torture methods used as part of the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation programme is a stark reminder of the ongoing impunity for the many appalling human rights violations perpetrated in the name of “national security”, said Amnesty International today.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence summary, released today, provides some details of how the CIA used “waterboarding”, mock execution, prolonged sleep deprivation, stress positions and other forms of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against detainees who had been forcibly disappeared. The summary report also provides some information on the effects of the interrogation techniques and detention conditions on the detainees themselves, including “hallucinations, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm and self-mutilation”.
Some of these actions constitute torture under international law in and of themselves - others amount to torture when combined or applied for a prolonged period, or else are considered cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. All are prohibited absolutely, without exception and in all circumstances. Enforced disappearance also constitutes a crime under international law.
The acts were carried out during the rendition and secret detention programmes that followed the crime against humanity committed on 11 September 2001.
Amnesty is emphasising that today’s report is far from delivering justice for numerous crimes which occurred during this period. Limited US Department of Justice investigations into CIA interrogations were ended in 2012 without anyone being charged, and likewise the CIA’s previous destruction of videotapes of interrogation sessions - containing possible evidence of crimes under international law - has not led to the bringing of charges. At the same time, access to justice for those who endured abuses has been systematically blocked by the US authorities, including on the grounds of state secrecy.
The full Senate committee report, which runs to some 6,700 pages, remains classified “Top Secret”. According to the committee chairperson Dianne Feinstein, the report contains “details of each detainee in CIA custody, the conditions under which they were detained, [and] how they were interrogated”. Amnesty is calling for release of the full report with as few redactions as possible, and none that obscure evidence of human rights violations.
Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas said:
“This report provides yet more damning detail of some of the human rights violations that were authorised by the highest authorities in the USA after 9/11.
“The declassified information contained in the summary, while limited, are a reminder to the world of the utter failure of the USA to end the impunity enjoyed by those who authorised and used torture and other ill-treatment.
This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”
International partners in crime
The CIA and other US authorities did not act alone, but engaged a number of partners around the globe to help facilitate the rendition, torture, and secret detention of those the USA suspected of involvement in terrorism.
On 24 July, the European Court of Human Rights found that the government of Poland colluded with the CIA to establish a secret prison at Stare Kiejkuty, which operated between 2002 and 2005. The applicants in the case, and others, were held in secret detention and tortured, while some were then rendered to other places where they were at risk of similar abuse. In 2012, the European Court ruled that Macedonia had been responsible for complicity in the torture and enforced disappearance of Khaled El-Masri in US custody.
Other European countries to have worked with the CIA include - Italy, Lithuania, Romania, Sweden, and the UK, amongst others. In 2012 and 2013 the European Parliament called on all implicated EU members and associated states to fully investigate their roles in these operations.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“While the ugly truth about US ‘war on terror’ torture is gradually emerging, we still don't know how far Britain was dragged into the mire.
“In the Abdel Hakim Belhaj case, for example, it seems that Britain was responsible for delivering detainees to Gaddafi’s torturers in Libya. Was this just the tip of the iceberg?
“It’s taken years of wrangling in the USA for the Senate report to finally see the light of day - and there are plenty of problems with it, but in the UK we’re still way behind in terms of learning the truth about Britain’s role in the ‘war on terror’.
“Instead of a full independent inquiry with proper judicial powers, the British public is now being fobbed off with an Intelligence and Security Committee investigation which is simply incapable of carrying out a human rights-compliant inquiry. It does not have the necessary powers or the distance from those implicated.”