United Nation’s Report Condemns The United States For Human Rights Violations, Including Blocking Prosecution Of Those Responsible For Torture

President_Barack_Obama150px-OHCHR_logoThe United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report slamming the United States on torture and surveillance — the last international condemnation of the United States that is now viewed by many as a threat to civil liberties and international law. This follows international reports condemning the Obama Administration for its attacks on the free press and Internet freedoms. The demand for action on torture revives one of the greatest failures of the Obama Administration when the President, shown after taking office, assured CIA employees that no one would be investigated or prosecuted for torture despite the existence of international treaties obligating us to carry out such prosecutions. The President has admitted (as is clear from domestic and international rulings) that water boarding is torture. What is fascinating is that those who continue to defend this Administration dismiss the criticisms of respected international public interest groups, award-winning journalists, and even United Nations organizations in such condemnations. It is part of what has become a blind loyalty for an iconic president over long-standing principles. As noted by a widening array of organizations and experts, Obama has proven a perfect nightmare for civil liberties — once a core and defining area for Democrats and liberals alike.

The report chastises the United States for an array of concerns from harsh sentencing for juveniles to drone attacks to global surveillance. Amnesty International’s U.N. representative noted that “The U.S. is adept at demanding human rights change from other governments, while failing to meet international standards itself.”

On torture, the report found that the evidence of a torture program by the United States is clear and called for an investigation and prosecution of members of the “armed forces and other agents of the U.S. government.” While there should be no need to remind this country: “The State party [the United States] should ensure that all cases of unlawful killing, torture or other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, or enforced disappearance are effectively, independently and impartially investigated, that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in command positions, are prosecuted and sanctioned, and that victims are provided with effective remedies.” Only a few principled Democratic members have denounced Obama for his blocking of the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for torture.

torture -abu ghraibI have previously written about the cynical calculation that led to Obama blocking the prosecution for those responsible for the torture program. He knew such prosecutions would be unpopular, and with so many constitutional principles since that time, he just did not see the value in adhering to principle (even those embodied within binding treaty obligations). Since Obama ran on a civil liberties platform, many expected an independent torture investigation as soon as he took office. After all, waterboarding is one of the oldest forms of torture, pre-dating the Spanish Inquisition (when it was called tortura del agua). It has long been defined as torture by both U.S. and international law, and by Obama himself. Torture, in turn, has long been defined as a war crime, and the United States is under treaty obligation to investigate and prosecute such crimes.

However, such a principle did not make for good politics. Accordingly, as soon as he was elected, Obama set out to dampen talk of prosecution. Various intelligence officials and politicians went public with accounts of the Obama administration making promises to protect Bush officials and CIA employees from prosecution. Though the White House denied the stories, Obama later gave his controversial speech at the CIA headquarters and did precisely that. In the speech, he effectively embraced the defense of befehl ist befehl (“an order is an order”). As I have written before (here and here), the Obama Administration has destroyed some of the core Nuremburg principles, particularly in its revisal of the “superior orders defense” to excuse U.S. officials.

The appearance of torture in the list of criticisms in the report shows that the world has not forgotten our towering hypocrisy in this area and the President’s decision to shield our own officials from prosecution — even after CIA officials admitted to destroying evidence of torture to protect themselves from any later investigation. China now regularly cites our own torture program — and the protection of U.S. officials responsible for the program — to defect criticism of its own programs.

What we have lost in the last decade is not simply clarity in dealing with human rights and civil liberties but credibility in voicing what were once undeniably American values.

80 thoughts on “United Nation’s Report Condemns The United States For Human Rights Violations, Including Blocking Prosecution Of Those Responsible For Torture”

  1. bill mcwilliams,
    Ah, the Royalty of Clinton. Much like the Bush clan.
    Imagine a Clinton vs. Bush elections 2016.
    Might as well be 1716, England.

  2. I guess the right wing moonbat links provides balance to the left wing moonbat links that ruled here for a long time. Water always finds its level.

  3. Well, let’s try this post again. I agree that torture continues: “Jon Eisenberg, pro bono counsel for Mr Rabbani, said: “It is sadly ironic that, while Washington debates torture by the CIA a decade ago, it is happening right now at Guantanamo Bay on President Obama’s watch.”

    http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/03/27

  4. I agree that torture continues: “Jon Eisenberg, pro bono counsel for Mr Rabbani, said: “It is sadly ironic that, while Washington debates torture by the CIA a decade ago, it is happening right now at Guantanamo Bay on President Obama’s watch.”

    WASHINGTON – March 27 – A father of three from Pakistan will today join historic litigation demanding that a US court of law intervene to halt prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay.

    Ahmed Rabbani, who has been held without charge or trial since 2005, is being abusively force-fed and harshly disciplined as part of the military’s efforts to break his year-long hunger strike. He suffers from serious medical problems as a result.

    Unlike prisoners held on US soil, Ahmed has previously been barred from challenging the legality of the methods by which he is force-fed at Guantánamo Bay. Last month, he was granted the right to do so by DC’s federal court of appeals, and on March 11 fellow prisoner Imad Abdullah Hasan filed the historic first challenge to the procedure. Today, Ahmed will file his own claim in federal court, and the military will be required to answer to a judge on his daily ordeal.

    The mounting litigation against the regime at Guantánamo exposes the daily brutality of the force-feeding process, which the military has rendered progressively more painful in order to break hunger strikes at the camp.

    Ahmed’s legal team will add their argument to growing evidence that Guantánamo’s force-feeding of peaceful protesters amounts to torture. Ahmed’s motion to enjoin his abusive force-feeding will be filed in the DC District Court today (Thursday March 27) by Eric Lewis of Lewis Baach, Jon B. Eisenberg and Alka Pradhan of Reprieve US.

    Alka Pradhan, Reprieve US counsel for Ahmed Rabbani, said: “Under the guise of keeping them alive, Mr Rabbani and his fellow hunger-strikers are being abused and degraded simply for exercising their right to peaceful protest. They have suffered enough. At the very least, the court must order the inhumane Guantanamo force-feeding practices to follow those used on US soil.”

    Jon Eisenberg, pro bono counsel for Mr Rabbani, said: “It is sadly ironic that, while Washington debates torture by the CIA a decade ago, it is happening right now at Guantanamo Bay on President Obama’s watch.”
    ###

    Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

    http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/03/27

  5. Jill, yes most definitely for them and for Obama’s administration too. In my opinion many of them are complicit. All involved with the War Crimes / Obstruction should be prosecuted. If I had the authority I couldn’t sign the papers quickly enough.

  6. Danny, I wondered if you would be willing to answer whether you think there should be prosecutions of Bush and Cheney for torture?

  7. Only talk. Talk, talk ,talk. No one , or group of people are smart enough or
    strong enough to stop the abusive powers of the Presidency.

  8. p.s.
    I would feel much more ‘secure’ if Kim Jun Un would promise to not target ‘another’ wedding party this time.
    … Just saying.

  9. My guess on the country the NSA is collecting 100% of communications on is…
    … The United States of America.

  10. CALL your House Representative on these issues!
    I don’t care if your guys did it or are doing it now!
    If it’s ok for ANYONE to TORTURE, then it’s ok to torture YOU!

    This is basic humanity. Why are lawyers so silent on this issue?
    The streets should be filled with lawyers.
    He||, this Admin doesn’t respect Lawyer/client confidentiality.
    This Admin doesn’t respect human Rights!
    Drone-bama, cold killer!

  11. Shorter Richard B(ionic heart) Cheney said:
    “Saddam torture bad, US torture good.”

    If the principle to strive for is one where trhe bad and ugly things you do aren’t bad and ugly but only are bad and ugly when other people do it… Trust me, you’ve become another member of those “other people” (Because they rationalize their crap just like you did).

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