Senate Report Underscores Need for Complete Accounting of Prisoner Abuse
NEW YORK - The Senate Armed Service Committee's release today of the unclassified portions of its report on detainee treatment reaffirms the need for a complete and open investigation into U.S. government detention and interrogation practices since September 11, 2001, and for accountability for those who authorized or engaged in prisoner abuse, a leading human rights group said today.
While the complete Senate Armed Service Committee report is classified, the portions made public today include information about the use of Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) techniques--designed to simulate abusive tactics used by our enemies to elicit false confession--against detainees in U.S. custody. Despite multiple congressional hearings on interrogation policies, and Justice Department and military investigations into the abuses at Abu Ghraib, information about how high level decisions were made authorizing torture and abuse has not been made public.
"We welcome the Senate Armed Services Committees' important investigation into the use of SERE techniques, but we are disappointed that such a small section was released to the public," said Deborah Colson, Interim Director of Human Rights First's Law and Security Program. "The United States must openly confront its role in sanctioning cruel treatment so that the American public and Congress can learn from past mistakes and prevent future abuse," added Colson.
Human Rights First is also urging President-elect Obama to establish a nonpartisan commission to investigate the facts and circumstances relating to U.S. government detention and interrogation operations since September 11th in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and at secret prison sites.
"The next president must restore America's commitment to humane treatment and prevent future sanctioning of cruel treatment by directing the new attorney general to investigate potential criminal conduct related to detainee abuse," said Colson. "Prosecution is a strong deterrent against abuse and would send a signal that no one is above the law," added Colson.
In October 2008, Human Rights First released a detailed blueprint to the new administration on ending torture and cruel treatment. Among other recommendations, "How to End Torture and Cruel Treatment: Blueprint for the Next Administration" advises investment in effective and humane intelligence gathering, and the establishment of a nonpartisan commission to investigate the facts relating to U.S. government detention and interrogation operations since September 11.