For Immediate Release: October 15, 2008
New York, NY – As Americans learn of the existence of additional secret White House memoranda authorizing torture and official cruelty, a leading human rights organization unveiled a detailed, multi-phased blueprint for the next administration to end official cruelty and restore America”s commitment to the rule of law within the next president’s first year in office.
“Restoring our Nation’s commitment to humane treatment must be a top priority for the next President of the United States,” said Elisa Massimino, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First. “New revelations of explicit White House authorization for the use of torture reinforces how critical it is that the next president publicly and emphatically dismantle the legal framework that sanctioned cruel treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody,” Massimino added.
Both parties’ presidential candidates have rejected the use of torture and agree that America’s reputation has been damaged by the Bush Administration’s policies authorizing abuse of prisoners. Human Rights First’s plan – “How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment: Blueprint for the Next Administration” – offers a strategy for the next president to end torture and official cruelty and to invest instead in effective and humane intelligence gathering.
Human Rights First’s three-stage blueprint sets forth a series of concrete recommendations for actions beginning on day one and continuing through the first year of the next administration, including:
- Expressly renouncing torture and official cruelty in the president’s inaugural address and announcing a single standard of humane treatment across all government agencies based on the military’s Golden Rule: We must not engage in conduct that we would consider unlawful if perpetrated by the enemy against captured Americans.
- Revoking all White House, Justice Department, Defense Department and CIA orders and memoranda authorizing or justifying cruel treatment or secret detention.
- Ordering the National Security Advisor to undertake a comprehensive interagency review of all torture memoranda and documents and to make these documents public, to the greatest extent possible, so that Congress and the public fully understand how laws mandating humane treatment were circumvented.
- Declaring a moratorium on renditions that have sent detainees from U.S. custody to torture in other countries, and direct a comprehensive review of rendition practices and the use of diplomatic assurances.
- Strengthening counterterrorism efforts by directing the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to undertake a comprehensive review and reform of U.S. government human intelligence gathering practices, including interrogation.
- Appointing a nonpartisan commission, modeled on the 9/11 Commission, to investigate the facts and circumstances relating to U.S. government detention and interrogation operations since September 11, 2001, and make public a report on its findings.
“The use of torture does immense harm to the reputation and moral authority of the United States, to members of its own armed forces, and to national security. The United States must get its own house in order and close the ugly chapter of secret prisons and official cruelty. The next president must take decisive action to restore America’s commitment to human rights,” said Massimino.
This blueprint is based on Human Rights First’s work on U.S. detention and interrogation policies since September 11, 2001. The organization has worked closely with more than 50 retired generals, admirals and civilian national security officials, including more than two dozen retired intelligence and interrogation officials, to advocate against torture and official cruelty. Human Rights First’s work includes several groundbreaking reports that have shined a bright light on U.S. government detention and interrogation practices, setting forth practical recommendations for remedying these abuses. For example, in Command’s Responsibility: Deaths in Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, the organization documented the deaths of nearly a hundred detainees in the hands of U.S. officials in the “global war on terror.” Thirty-four of these deaths were classified by the U.S. military as suspected or confirmed homicides; of these, Human Rights First identified eight persons as having been tortured to death in U.S. custody. And in Leave No Marks: Enhanced Interrogation and the Risk of Criminality, the organization demonstrated that U.S. personnel who engage in so-called “enhanced” interrogation and similarly abusive techniques are at serious risk of violating U.S. law.
The blueprint, How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment: Blueprint for the Next Administration, is the second in a series of strategy papers released by Human Rights First to guide the next administration in strengthening U.S. intelligence gathering practices and other counterterrorism efforts. The first paper in the series, How to Close Guantanamo: A Blueprint for the Next Administration was released in August 2008.