UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Demands Torture Accountability

8 Jul 2009

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Friday, 3 July 2009, was International Day of Support for Victims of Torture.

In light of the occasion, the Real News Network asked, "Just how is the Obama administration holding accountable, people who tortured?"

Paul Jay interviews Michael Ratner, President of America's Centre for Constitutional Rights, to answer the question.

Ratner says that the Obama administration's scorecard on holding people accountable for torture is very bad. The administration has performed poorly on two issues.

Firstly, it has a poor record on transparency -- withholding documents and photographs of torture. And secondly, it has not gotten a criminal investigation off the ground.

On the first issue, transparency, the Obama administration is holding back a 2004 CIA report on interrogations. There are concerns that the report will be released in a redacted form.

Ratner claims there are indications that the report contains information about extreme interrogation techniques and murders, which the CIA and the Obama administration appear to be trying to withhold.

Linked to the second issue of a criminal investigation, a big reason that the torture material is not being released, argues Ratner, is because if it is released into the public domain, there will be an expectation from members of the public to hold senior members of the Bush administration accountable. This seems to be cause for consternation in the Obama administration. 

However, while such prosecutions may be difficult to carry out, it is still necessary to go after perpetrators of torture, if America is ever to be a civilized country, argues Ratner.

Ratner says, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, South Africa's Navi Pillay, made a very strong statement on this very issue on the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture.

According to Ratner, "She said, people should not be exonerated when they were involved in torture and that includes the lawyers and the doctors who were involved in it. And then she said, torture was barbaric and that a country that engages in it or condones it -- and by failure to prosecute your condoning it, a country that condones it, does not deserve to be called a civilized country."

Ratner says, "There are indications that the Obama administration is doing everything it can to bottle up and cover over any kind of look at the torture programme, any kind of public accountability for it and any kind of legal accountability for it."

In his view, there are indications that they want to run the other way.

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/150.19.

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