Cambridge, Mass. - 08/31/2012
The US Justice Department’s decision to end its criminal investigation of the CIA’s torture of prisoners without bringing a single prosecution is a shameful conclusion to a sordid chapter in American history, PHR declared today.
“We are deeply disappointed that the US government has refused to bring charges against those responsible for heinous acts of torture resulting in two deaths – in violation of US and international law,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s Executive Director. “What message does it send to other countries and to the American public when neither the officials who authorized such abusive interrogation techniques nor the people who implemented them are compelled to answer for their crimes in a court of law?”
Since 2003, PHR has investigated allegations that US national security personnel used abusive interrogation techniques amounting to torture as part of their intelligence-gathering activities. Subsequent PHR reports have documented the systematic use of physical and psychological torture against detainees at US detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced Aug. 30 that the Justice Department had dropped its investigation into the deaths of two prisoners who had been tortured, one in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, “because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“We had hoped for better from this administration,” said McKay, who noted Holder’s declaration that “no one is above the law” when asked during his Senate confirmation hearings in 2009 about immunizing from criminal charges people who used waterboarding in interrogating detainees.
“Two men died as a result of extreme abuse while in US custody, and no one will be held criminally accountable,” McKay said. “America had an opportunity to right a wrong, but instead our government let us down and fell far short of both our legal and our moral responsibility. It is a dark day for human rights when anti-torture laws can apparently be violated with impunity.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations against individuals. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.
Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.
- 1988 — First to document Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Kurds
- 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans
- 1996 — Produced critical forensic evidence of genocide in Rwanda
- 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
- 2003 — Warned of health and human rights catastrophe prior to the invasion of Iraq
- 2004 — Documented and analyzed the genocide in Darfur
- 2005 — Detailed the story of tortured detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay
- 2010 — Showed how CIA medical personnel sought to improve waterboarding and
other interrogation techniques that amount to torture
- 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services
in times of armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
This is a full record of the town hall style forum on torture accountability hosted by Amnesty International and Women Against Military Madness (www.worldwidewamm.org) at the Mayflower Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota on August 13, 2012. Panelists were Congressperson Keith Ellison, 5th District Minnesota, Doug Johnson, former Director of Center for Victims of Torture and Barbara Frey, Director of the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota. The forum was moderated by David Schultz, Professor at the Hamline University School of Law. Program: Introductions, statements, Q and A, dramatic reading of excerpts from the Aug 1, 2002 torture memo in tandem with excerpts from the testimony of Abu Zubaydah to the International Committee of the Red Cross regarding being tortured by US personnel.