How CIA lawyers sanctioned the systematic use of torture

Apr 17 2009


Reprieve welcomes the release of CIA memos sanctioning a system of professionalised torture and calls for full transparency on crimes committed during the ‘War on Terror’

Reprieve welcomes the release of documents detailing how CIA lawyers sanctioned the systematic use of torture and calls for a serious response to the crimes committed.

The memos contradict Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘bad apple’ excuse, showing that torture was systematic, legitimised and approved by those at the very top of the tree.

“These memos expose the facilitating role played by lawyers, doctors and psychologists in the CIA torture programme,” said Reprieve investigator Clara Gutteridge.

“The Bush Administration has professionalised torture and it will take more than the release of a few memos to put this right.”

1) The full truth must come out

Grave crimes have been committed in the ‘War on Terror’ and we must above all ensure that they never happen again. For this, nothing less than complete transparency is required.

We cannot learn from history unless we know what history is.

This memo raises more serious questions about ‘war’ crimes past and present:

· What techniques were used outside of the US on rendered prisoners? Which techniques are still used in military and proxy prisons abroad?
· How many victims of US-sanctioned torture remain in prisons around the world? How many prisoners are held on the basis of testimony obtained by torture?
· How many prisoners are currently held without trial in US military prisons abroad? Where are they? Who are they? When will they be allowed access to lawyers?

2) Victims of torture must be treated as such

Torture is a very serious crime with devastating consequences for the victims. Yet prisoners returning from Guantanamo depend entirely on the goodwill of charities for help in recovering from their ordeal. Indeed, it is only recently that their accounts of torture are being taken seriously.

Reprieve investigator Chris Chang said: “Guantanamo’s torture victims are released back into the world after their illegal incarceration mentally and physically scarred.”

“They are offered no medical assistance and no help to rebuild their lives or to reintegrate into a world that has become alien to them. Nor can they challenge those responsible for their abuse. When will we begin to take their plight seriously?”

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk ph: 020 7427 1099 / 07931 592674

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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