Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

17 April 2009

Impunity for CIA torture is incompatible with USA's international obligations

Impunity for CIA torture is incompatible with USA's international obligations

Four previously secret memorandums released by the new US administration give an insight into how its predecessor lost its legal and moral compass in turning to torture and other ill-treatment in the name of counter-terrorism.

The release of the memorandums, written in the US Department of Justice in 2002 and 2005 to provide legal cover to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to use “enhanced” interrogation techniques in its secret detention program, is welcome. Amnesty International has long called for all such documents to be published.

However, accompanying statements issued by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, effectively conferring impunity for acts of torture – crimes under international law, are incompatible with the USA’s international legal obligation to bring perpetrators to justice.

International law is clear. Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment can never be justified. They are never legal. Even in a state of emergency, there can be no exemption from this obligation.

International law is also clear about the state’s duties when this prohibition is violated. States must ensure that independent and impartial investigations are carried out into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment and that anyone found responsible is brought to justice.

In a letter to CIA officers, President Obama said: “In releasing these memos, the men and women of the CIA have assurances from both myself, and from Attorney General Holder, that we will protect all who acted reasonably and relied upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that their actions were lawful.

"The Attorney General has assured me that these individuals will not be prosecuted and that the Government will stand by them”.  But there is no such thing as torture perpetrated in “good faith” or “reasonable” circumstances.

Read More

USA: Torture in black and white, but impunity continues: Department of Justice releases interrogation memorandums (Briefing, 17 April 2009)

Issue

Detention 
Impunity 
Prison Conditions 
Torture And Ill-treatment 
Trials And Legal Systems 

Country

USA 

Region

Americas 

Campaigns

Security with Human Rights 

@amnestyonline on twitter

News

21 August 2014

Children accused of being members of armed groups in the conflict in Mali are languishing in adult jails while human rights abuses continue.

Read more »
15 August 2014

The number of killings perpetrated by the police is on the rise again in the Dominican Republic whilst legislation intended to fix the problem stalls and stagnates in Congress... Read more »

29 August 2014

The execution of two men in Japan on Friday flies in the face of growing calls in the country to halt the use of capital punishment, said Amnesty International.

Read more »
29 August 2014

Russia’s official branding of a civil society organization as a “foreign agent”, an expression akin to “spying”, for speaking out on Ukraine is a sign of the country’s... Read more »

31 August 2014

Egypt is tightening its chokehold on civil society as the country’s independent NGOs face the risk of being shut down if they fail to comply with a compulsory requirement to... Read more »