Friday June 26th will mark International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. This day is an opportunity for the people of the world to “reaffirm the universal commitment to the total eradication of torture.”
In response to the holiday, over 100 civil and human rights organizations from around the world have sent a letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council demanding an investigation into the United States for failing to hold officials accountable for allowing torture under the CIA’s controversial program. The letter also faults the U.S. for failing to provide justice to the victims of the torture program.
Since 1984, most of the world has signed the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In 1987 when President Ronald Reagan signed the treaty he said the following:
“The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called “universal jurisdiction.” Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”
The United States officially ratified the treaty in 1994. The US government is also bound by federal laws against the use of torture. Despite this, the US has engaged in acts of torture including waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and more. Indeed, in December when the Senate released their report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation it was revealed that the CIA continuously misled congressional and White House officials about the effectiveness and level of brutality of its methods.
On Wednesday, June 24, the secretary general of Amnesty International and the executive directors of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch sent another letter and delivered petitions with 111,788 signatures of human rights supporters to the Department of Justice. The organizations are seeking to pressure the US government into holding officials accountable for the use of torture.
DOJ spokesman Marc Raimondi told The Miami Herald that the Attorney General already conducted a preliminary review and reviewed the Senate report on torture “and did not find any new information that they had not previously considered in reaching their determination. This inquiry was extraordinarily thorough and we stand by our previously announced decision not to initiate criminal charges.”
The new letter was submitted by the ACLU, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)
Conectas Direitos Humanos, and Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). Over 100 groups endorsed the call for accountability, including Center for Constitutional Rights, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School, National Lawyers Guild, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
The international groups are asking the US government to consider the consequences of not holding the U.S. government accountable.
“We know from the experiences of civil society groups and survivors of torture around the world that the struggle for accountability for human rights violations and the search for truth can be a long and difficult journey. Yet the United States has much to gain from rejecting impunity, returning to the rule of law, and providing adequate redress to the dozens and dozens of people it so brutally abused.”