Following the publication on Tuesday of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Bush-era CIA interrogation practices, a top United Nations expert has called for US officials involved in torture to be prosecuted — and he says that they can be tried in any country.
"It is now time to take action," Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, declared in a statement. "The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today's report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes."
Emmerson noted that the primary responsibility to prosecute lies with the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney General's Office, but added that "the perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country they may travel to."
"Torture is a crime of universal jurisdiction," he said.
After more than four years of political wrangling, the Senate Intelligence Committee made public a 500-page summary of its 6,000-page investigation into the CIA's secret post-9/11 interrogation tactics. The committee found that the CIA misled the White House and Congress about its treatment of terrorism suspects, and concluded that its methods — including waterboarding, which led to "series of near drownings," and the subjection of detainees to "rectal rehydration," or rectal feeding, as a form of behavioral control — were far more brutal than the agency admitted.
In several cases, detainees were deprived of sleep for more than seven days. In another, a partially nude prisoner died of hypothermia after being left chained on the concrete floor of a secret prison in Afghanistan. The committee said that despite CIA claims to the contrary, so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" did not extract "valuable" information from detainees that would have been impossible to obtain by other means.
"This document examines the CIA's secret overseas detention of at least 119 individuals and the use of coercive interrogation techniques — in some cases amounting to torture," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), who chaired the committee, said.
In addition to alleged torture orchestrated and carried out by American officials, the UN has criticized the US this year over NSA spying, police brutality, and the denial of basic human rights to residents of Detroit who had their water shut off.
Emerson said the Senate report proves the US violated international law — specifically the UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances. The US has signed and ratified the UN's torture convention, but has not approved the latter.
"The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the US government provides no excuse whatsoever," added Emmerson. "Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.
He said that in addition to CIA officials, the Attorney General's Office should prosecute members of the Bush administration that have publicly admitted involvement in the agency's programs.
"The heaviest penalties should be reserved for those most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorization of these crimes," he remarked.
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