Further US torture revelations highlight need for independent commission of inquiry

Condoleezza Rice approved the use of “water-boarding” in 2002 according to information released on Wednesday by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. As National Security Adviser to former President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice is recorded to have given the CIA verbal approval to interrogate alleged al-Qaida member Abu Zubaydah using this and other so-called “enhanced” techniques.

The approval was conditional on the Justice Department determining the interrogation methods requested by the CIA were legal.

Amnesty International has said that this and other information being released in relation to the USA’s interrogation practices underline the need for an independent commission of inquiry. Having ordered the release of four previously secret memorandums on the approval and use of “enhanced” interrogation techniques, President Obama indicated on Tuesday that he would support a bipartisan congressional process to look at past practices.

“Amnesty International welcomes President Obama’s indication of support for a bipartisan congressional investigation; the organization has long been calling for an independent commission of inquiry,” said Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International. “The release of the so-called ‘torture memos’ last week was a solid step towards real accountability. We urge President Obama to follow through.”

President Obama also indicated on Tuesday that the US Attorney General would be the judge of whether to prosecute those who formulated the legal framework which cleared such methods.

“Torture has long been recognized to be a violation of both national and international law. Amnesty International welcomes President Obama’s recognition that it is a legal issue and not only a political decision, and calls for all those responsible for torture to be brought to justice”, said Susan Lee.

The information on Condoleezza Rice’s role in July 2002 in Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation is contained in the Intelligence Committee’s timeline of how the CIA’s harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.

The revelation comes a day after the Senate Armed Services Committee released a 232-page report detailing direct links between the CIA’s harsh interrogation program and abuses of detainees at the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan and at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

“Almost every day, another report, another memo, another testimony or another personal story adds to the mounting evidence that government officials circumvented the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” said Susan Lee “How much more evidence do we need before the USA’s leaders act? It’s time to abide by international law and hold people accountable for their actions.

“Amnesty International urges President Obama and Congress to quickly establish an independent commission of inquiry that has the force of law, subpoena power and adequate funding to fully examine and report publicly on torture and other ill-treatment of ‘war on terror’ detainees.”