Evidence of human rights violations committed by governments in the context of the so-called “war on terror” is now out in the open. Among other things, there is credible evidence that secret detention facilities existed in particular countries, and that detainees were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.
While evidence and allegations of abuses continue to emerge, few of the individuals responsible have been held to account. To date, those who have been held to account have mostly been low-ranking officials.
Victims, their families and society as a whole have the right to know the truth about human rights abuses committed, the identity of the perpetrators and what measures are being taken to seek accountability. This is essential for society to be able to learn lessons to prevent violations from being committed in the future, and so that victims of those violations can receive redress for their suffering.
Amnesty International has campaigned to expose the roles played by European and other governments in the programmes of rendition and secret detention run by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after the attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001. Under these programmes, people were detained in secret, transferred between countries, and subjected to enforced disappearance, unlawful detention and sometimes torture or other ill-treatment. Many other abuses occurred outside the CIA programmes.
While some governments have proposed or conducted inquiries and investigations into their roles in these operations, others have failed to seek accountability:
- The authorities in Lithuania have admitted to hosting two secret prisons established in collaboration with the CIA. A criminal investigation into the Lithuanian security service’s involvement in the sites was opened in 2010, then closed prematurely in January 2011.
- In Macedonia, the authorities allegedly assisted in the unlawful detention and rendition of German national Khaled el-Masri. The case is pending at the European Court of Human Rights, but Macedonia continues to deny that its agents acted unlawfully.
- In 2010, the UK government announced that it would establish an inquiry into the involvement of British state actors in the alleged torture of individuals detained abroad by foreign intelligence services.
Accountability is needed not only for violations committed in the past; human rights violations in the name of national security and countering terrorism continue in countries around the world. The obligation to provide accountability for a violation arises as soon as it occurs.
As part of the Security with Human Rights campaign Amnesty International will:
- Urge governments to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed in the name of national security and countering terrorism to ensure that those responsible are held accountable, including in criminal proceedings and public inquiries.
- Campaign for victims and their families to receive effective redress