Sunday, April 24, 2005

Human Rights Watch Cites Rumsfeld and Tenet in Report on Abuse

"This pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from the acts of individual soldiers who broke the rules," said a statement by Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch. "It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore or cast the rules aside."

“Drawing largely on news reports and publicly available military reviews, the group, Human Rights Watch, concluded that there was "overwhelming evidence that U.S. mistreatment and torture of Muslim prisoners took place not merely at Abu Ghraib, but at facilities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq as well as at Guantánamo and at 'secret locations' around the world in violation of the Geneva Convention and the laws against torture."

The report, Getting Away with Torture? Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees, found no indication that Mr. Rumsfeld warned those under his command to halt abusive treatment of detainees and said that he should be investigated for abuses under a doctrine of "command responsibility." Mr. Rumsfeld has said he made it clear to subordinates that he did not condone mistreatment.

The report found that Mr. Tenet had been responsible for policies that sent detainees to countries where they were tortured, which made him potentially liable as an accomplice to torture. Mr. Tenet has not addressed the issue publicly, but C.I.A. officials have long said that Mr. Tenet insisted that agency personnel carefully follow the law.

A special prosecutor was needed to investigate these matters, the report said, because Alberto R. Gonzales, the attorney general, had a conflict of interest because he ‘was himself deeply involved in the policies leading to these alleged crimes.’”

From the earliest days of the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, top U.S. government officials have been aware of allegations of abuse. Yet, until the publication of the Abu Ghraib photographs forced action, many Bush administration officials took at best a “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to all reports of detainee mistreatment, including those described above, while others were ordering or acquiescing in the abuses.

While reports of abuse had already been coming in for a year, it was a seminal article in The Washington Post on December 26, 2002 that provided a wake-up call on U.S. tactics in the “global war on terror.”41 Citing unnamed U.S. officials, it reported that detainees in Afghanistan were subject to “awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights — subject to what are known as ‘stress and duress’ techniques.” The Post also reported being told by U.S. officials that “[t]housands have been arrested and held with U.S. assistance in countries known for brutal treatment of prisoners” and described the rendition of captured al-Qaeda suspects from U.S. custody to other countries where they are tortured or otherwise mistreated. One official was quoted as saying, “We don’t kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them.”42

The report said that of seven investigations by the Pentagon, none had critically examined the role of the civilian leaders with ultimate authority over detainee policy. Investigations into case-by-case abuses have largely focused on lower-level personnel. Bush administration officials have repeatedly said that the government's policies prohibit civilian and military personnel from engaging in torture and that anyone found to have used abusive procedures would be held accountable and would face possible prosecution.

So far, the government has shown no interest in an independent inquiry. Republicans in Congress have blocked requests by Democrats to examine allegations of detainee abuse. At the same time, the Justice Department has ignored requests to appoint a special prosecutor.

An Army investigation has cleared all but one of the five most senior Army officers who were responsible for detainee policies in Iraq.
con·cept: Human Rights Watch Cites Rumsfeld and Tenet in Report on Abuse