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Human Rights Watch is reporting that a bipartisan panel has found that the United States, at the highest level, was involved in and allowed the torture of detainees and prisoners of war since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001:
A bipartisan study finding “indisputable” evidence of torture for which the highest United Statesofficials bear responsibility should spur the US government to thoroughly investigate detainee abuse since September 11, 2001, and provide redress to victims.
The 560-page study, “The Report of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment,” released on April 16, 2013, is the product of a two-year study based on evidence in the public record. It was conducted by a bipartisan task force assembled by The Constitution Project, a public interest organization. Task force members came from a broad range of ideological perspectives and professions, and include both former Republican and Democratic policymakers and members of Congress, retired generals, judges, lawyers, and academics.
“The finding of torture by a diverse, bipartisan task force, without subpoena power and looking solely at the public record, shows the need for an official US investigation into detainee abuse,” said Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch. “The indisputable evidence of torture clearly raises the question: what will the US government do about it?”
The report concludes that, “The nation’s most senior officials … bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some US personnel on detainees in several theaters.” It also finds that much information obtained through torture and other ill-treatment was not useful or reliable. The report’s findings are largely consistent with Human Rights Watch’s own investigations.
The US is obligated under both domestic and international law to investigate allegations of torture, appropriately prosecute those responsible, and ensure effective redress for victims, Human Rights Watch said. No senior US officials have been held accountable for their role in authorizing and implementing torture or other ill-treatment of terrorism suspects. The US government has repeatedly sought and secured dismissals of lawsuits brought by former detainees in US federal court, claiming that litigating the cases would harm national security.
The US government should pursue credible criminal investigations against US officials implicated in torture. If it does not, other countries should prosecute US officials involved in crimes against detainees in accordance with international law, Human Rights Watch said.
“The American people deserve a full accounting of the torture conducted in their name,” Pitter said. “The work of this private, bipartisan commission sends a clear message that full disclosure is an issue of great importance to all Americans, no matter their political leanings.”