An investigator appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to look into the human rights abuses committed in counter-terrorism programs around the world has sent them his report, which calls on the United States to prosecute those who ordered and carried out torture on detainees.
Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, voiced concern that while President Barack Obama’s administration has rejected Central Intelligence Agency practices conducted under his predecessor George W. Bush, there have been no prosecutions.
“Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States,” Emmerson said in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which he will address on Tuesday…
The “war on terror” waged by Bush after al Qaeda attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 led to “gross or systematic” violations involving secret prisons for Islamic militant suspects, clandestine transfers and torture, Emmerson said.
Under Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice would not prosecute any official who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance given by its Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush era on interrogation.
But Emmerson said that using a “superior orders defense” and invoking secrecy on national security grounds was “perpetuating impunity for the public officials implicated in these crimes”.
This is made clear by the UN Convention Against Torture, which the United States not only signed but helped draft and pushed other countries to sign during the Reagan administration. That convention says quite plainly:
Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
The Obama administration is making an argument that is explicitly not allowed under our treaty obligations, which are legally binding on us according to the Constitution.