On Wednesday, the United Nations Committee Against Torture began its review of the United States’ record on torture–not only at the infamous GuantÃ¡namo Bay but closer to home, in our prisons, police forces, and immigration facilities.
The U.S. delegation acknowledged, “we crossed the line” on torture. Many of us believe that line matters, and that American values and law should define us as a country that stands against torture and cruelty. But as committee member Domah said, even “democratic institutions join forces to frustrate democratic principles.”
Yesterday the United States gave its response to the dozens of questions posed about the treatment of those in U.S. custody and all individuals it fails to protect. And the response was incomplete, defensive, and disheartening.
Let’s take three of the many issues the ACLU raised for this review. First, accountability for torture committed under the Bush administration. Committee members found U.S. responses on accountability and remedies for the “some folks” we tortured was wholly inadequate.
It’s easy to see why. The U.S. failed to conduct a comprehensive and independent criminal investigation, including into the role of the architects of the torture program. While the U.S. delegation reiterated its commitment to holding those who torture accountable, it couldn’t even provide assurances that the Department of Justice, in a recent inquiry led by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham, looked into the role of senior officials. Durham recommended full investigations be opened in two detainee death cases–Gul Rahman at the Salt Pit Prison in 2002, and Manadel al-Jamadi in Iraq in 2003–but the Justice Department closed both without charging anyone.