Very rarely do international organizations such as the United Nations truly condemn crimes against humanity and in doing so, come out in defense of the abused, but this time it was unavoidable.
The publication and dissemination of the heavily censored report made available by the US Senate Committee on CIA torture that began in the Bush era has led to a massive rejection of such actions throughout the world, with more or less intensity, but the few revelations being made public have caused harsh reprisals against citizens and American interests, a possibility to which the US embassies have taken preventative security measures.
Berlin, like other European powers -including Great Britain, a strong US ally in Europe – has expressed opposition to the practices of the US intelligence community, judging it as a “serious violation of democratic values,” said the chief German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Other countries with human rights problems like China and Iran have been charged against by the USA before, for the alleged commission of abuses against their citizens. This time, the role was reversed, with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader, accusing the US government of being “the symbol of tyranny against humanity”. The UN, meanwhile, has called for torture not to go “unpunished”.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, has claimed that there should not be “impunity” for the torture revealed by the report.
The Convention against Torture does not allow “exceptional circumstances” in which detainees can be abused recalls the text. “The Convention does not leave anyone out, not even the torturers, not politicians or officials who give the orders” when holding those responsible accountable for any violations of human rights,” he says.
In Germany, Steinmeier added that “such a serious violation of our democratic values can not be repeated.” Strangely, Mr. Steinmeier congratulated Barack Obama, who is also responsible for covering-up the torture, for “breaking with the policy of his predecessor, George W. Bush, and publicly exposing what happened.”
In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has emphasized that Western countries risk a lot with the use of torture because they lose their moral high ground.
“Torture is a mistake, it is always a mistake. Those of us who want to see a safer world, who want to see extremism defeated, will not succeed if we lose our moral authority and what makes our country a success,” said Cameron yesterday in Ankara, in a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
In France, President Hollande has made no statements about the devastating report on the “brutal” practices of the CIA for ten years. The only prominent person to issue a statement was Marine Le Pen, an opposition leader since the European elections of May 25. Ms. Le Pen saw herself against the ropes in a television interview in which ultimately conceded that sometimes she does support torture.
As for the European Union, the Foreign spokeswoman Catherine Ray condemned “all forms of torture and ill-treatment, including terrorism.” Ray has welcomed the publication of the US Senate report.
The publication of the text “is a positive step in addressing publicly and critically the program of detention and interrogation of the CIA“. She spokesman refused to comment on the participation of European countries in the CIA program.
According to an analysis of the document released yesterday, the US agency had secret centers in three EU countries: Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, has come out to defend his country for participating in the kidnapping and torture scheme, saying his government did not know about the torture practices. So far, Kwasniewski had exhaustively denied the existence of detention centers being used by the CIA in his country.
In Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani, called an extraordinary press conference to “strongly condemn” the “inhumane actions” of the US intelligence agencies. “All accepted principles of human rights, which are present in US law have been violated by members of the CIA and its contractors,” criticized Ghani.
In China, the government urged the US to “correct its ways” and “reflect“, “respect and abide by the rules of international conventions“. “China has consistently opposed torture,” said the spokesman of Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hong Lei.
Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International accused China, however, of multiple violations of human rights such as press censorship, detention without trial and persecution of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers.
Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, refused to accept that he lied to former President George W. Bush and the US Congress on interrogation practices that intelligence the agency conducted. Those practices have been deemed “brutal” and less effective than previously thought, according to a US Senate investigation unveiled yesterday. “I did not lie or deceived Congress,” Hayden defended himself in an interview on NBC, who headed the CIA in the second Bush term.
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, described the torture as “inexcusable crimes.” Snowden was speaking by video conference in an event organized by the NGO Amnesty International.
Nothing else we can do
Meanwhile in the United States the Obama administration seems to think that releasing a carefully redacted and censored report is enough to gain back public trust.
The day after the world learned about American torture practices, the US President and the Attorney General have washed their hands saying they will not take responsibility for prosecuting the criminals who carried out the torture. So much for accountability.
No one will be brought to justice and no criminal investigations will be open by the White House or the Justice Department. So what now?.
Josh Earnest declared that the ball was in the court of the state attorney general, Eric Holder, and the department that he runs, although Holder has already made it clear that he will not open any file to investigate the behavior of the Agency or to bring those responsible to justice. According to Barack Obama’s spokesperson, the president is concerned about “the impact that the revelations about the CIA will cause on the country’s image”. Consciousness is washed in the media but not in court.
The sordid chapter cries out for holding people accountable, requiring advocacy and civil rights groups, lawyers and even the United Nations to initiate some kind of legal process. “If we stick to international law, the United States is obligated to bring those responsible to justice,” assured the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of the UN, Ben Emmerson.
In terms of civil liberties, accountability and a change in the system is even more urgent.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a spokesman in this case, described the episode as “a stain on our values and our history.” The committee she chairs, at 81 years old, has exhibited little more than five hundred pages of a total of 6,000.
The defendants in the report justify their work arguing that it has saved thousands of lives. The former directors of the Agency, George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden published an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal in which they assure the public that the Senate report was wrong to say that the Agency had lied.
“The Committee has offered a study plagued with errors of fact and interpretation, basically it is a partisan attack on the agency that has done everything it could to protect America after 9/11“.
With no courts being able to judge the torture practices, the events described in the report are a kind of indictment against a particular institution. It is also a collective confession. Catharsis in the mouth of Congress, the institution representing the popular will.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute. Read more about Luis.