UN Experts Urge Obama to Back Release of CIA Interrogation Report

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A group of United Nations human rights experts on Wednesday urged United States  President Barack Obama to support the fullest possible release of the report on Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogation practices conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), stressing that “the stakes are very high.”

In an open letter released today, the experts said that President Obama’s decision on the Senate interrogation report would be closely watched by victims of torture and by other countries and “will have far-reaching consequences for victims of human rights violations everywhere and for the credibility of the United States.”

“As a nation that has publicly affirmed its belief that respect for truth advances respect for the rule of law, and as a nation that frequently calls for transparency and accountability in other countries, the United States must rise to meet the standards it has set both for itself and for others,” the letter states.

Launched in early 2009, the Senate investigation lasted four years and examined millions of pages of CIA documents and emails.  The report was approved by the Senate committee in late 2012 and its release to the public was approved in April 2014 by a large majority.  But it has yet to be released, reportedly due to demands by the CIA that material be redacted from the report.  According to several members of the Committee, the proposed redactions would prevent the reader from fully understanding the pattern and extent of violations.  Among other things, the CIA is reportedly demanding that pseudonyms created by the Committee for specific CIA officials be deleted in favour of even more generic and vague language, which beyond obscuring names, obscure patterns that are a crucial element of the system of violations that needs to be fully understood and redressed. 

The United Nations experts urged President Obama to release the report in a meaningful form, allowing the public to understand the facts and promoting the right to truth for victims and their families.

“Based on our work in many countries around the world, we believe that other States are watching your actions on this issue closely,” the experts stated in the open letter.  “Victims of torture and human rights defenders around the world will be emboldened if you take a strong stand in support of transparency.  On the contrary, if you yield to the CIA’s demands for continued secrecy on this issue, those resisting accountability will surely misuse this decision to bolster their own agenda in their countries.”

Noting President Obama’s wish to “look forward” and not backward on the torture issue, the experts stressed that every party to the United Nations Convention Against Torture has an obligation to thoroughly and promptly investigate credible reports of torture, ensure accountability and provide adequate remedies to victims.  The independent experts similarly called for the recognition of and redress for other violations that took place under the same CIA programmes, including secret and arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances, among others.

The experts commended President Obama for shutting down the CIA interrogation programme when he entered office and for recently acknowledging that the United States had tortured detainees after the September 11 attacks.

“Lasting security can only be achieved on the basis of truth and not secrecy,” the experts stressed.

“We hope that as President of a nation that helped draft the Convention Against Torture – and as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate – you will recognize the historic nature of your decision and side with those in the United States and around the world who are struggling to reveal the truth and to bring an end to the use of torture.”

Read the full text of the open letter: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15347&LangID=E

(*) The experts: Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Ariel Dulitzky, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; Christof Heynes, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as ‘Special Procedures’, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system. ‘Special Procedures’ is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.  Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not United Nations staff and do not receive a salary for their work.  They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.  Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

OHCHR Country Page – United States of America:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

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