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Human Rights Watch questions whether the Bush administration will get away with torture. Unfortunately, the answer points to yes.

By **Justin Alvarez**

Justin Alvarez_Large.jpgDo you know what’s in Human Right Watch’s latest report on torture? No? It’s a shame as “Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees,” exposes the overwhelming evidence of torture by the Bush administration, calling for President Obama to order a criminal investigation into allegation of detainee abuse authorized by the former President and other senior officials, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and Alberto Gonzales, amongst others .

Here are some of the report’s highlights:

“While Bush administration officials have claimed that detention and interrogation operations were only authorized after extensive discussion and legal review by Department of Justice attorneys, there is now substantial evidence that civilian leaders requested that politically appointed government lawyers create legal justifications to support abusive interrogation techniques, in the fact of opposition from career legal officers.”

“The Bush administration authorized coercive interrogation practices by the CIA and the military that amounted to torture, and instituted an illegal secret CIA detention program in which detainees were held in undisclosed locations without notifying their families, allowing access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, or providing for oversight of their treatment.”

The report also points out the government lack of disregard for human rights in their misguided “War on Terror” following September 11th “diminished the U.S.’s moral standing, set a negative example for other governments, and undermined U.S. government efforts to reduce anti-American militancy around the world.”

“[U]nder international law, states are obligated to investigate credible allegation of war crimes and serious violations of human rights committed by their nationals and members of their armed forces…”

And this is all in the first five pages. Even though the report’s authors state they express “no opinion about the ultimate guilt or innocence of any officials under U.S. law” it’s hard not to. With the evidence presented, it’s quite clear the Bush administration broke international law and misrepresented how they went about it.

“In December 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld authorized a number of interrogations and detention techniques, including stress positions, hooding during questioning, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, and use of ‘detainees’ individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress.’”

“A confidential report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that was leaked to media in 2010 stated that the secret detention regime used by the CIA ‘itself constitutes a form of ill-treatment.’ The ICRC found that the circumstances in which the detainees were held by the CIA ‘amounted to… enforced disappearance.’”

Enough said. HRW points out that “under international law, states are obligated to investigate credible allegation of war crimes and serious violations of human rights committed by their nationals and members of their armed forces…” Yes, even if those individuals include the Fab Four of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Tenet.

The integral questions are asked on the report’s first page: “Should former U.S. President George W. Bush be investigated for authorizing ‘waterboarding’ and other abuses against detainees that the United States and scores of other countries have long recognized as torture? Should high-ranking U.S. officials who authorized enforced disappearances of detainees and the transfer of others to countries where they were likely to be tortured be held accountable for their actions” The answer is yes. Will this happen? Unfortunately, no.

The ball’s in Obama’s court now, who upon taking office “abolished secret CIA prisons and banned the use of torture.” However, ever since, he has unfortunately stayed true to his belief that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” even though he previously had stated in his presidential campaign that there should be prosecution if “somebody has blatantly broke the law.” Turn a blind eye, sir, and no one will respect you.

See Human Rights Watch for more information.


Justin Alvarez is an editorial assistant at Guernica.

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