US Refusal to Probe and Account for its Own War Crimes Appalling
When the United States was forced to withdraw the draft resolution against Sri Lanka in September 2011 as a result of the strategic diplomatic maneuvers of the members of the Sri Lanka team at UNHRC in Geneva, the US Ambassador for Human Rights in Geneva threatened the then team leader Tamara Kunanayakam “We’ll get you next time!”.
Well, Sri Lanka is facing the U.S. diplomatic assault in March this year while the United States itself has refused to investigate and account for its own human rights violations and war crimes during its ‘War on Global Terror’ completely ignoring the slogans ‘accountability’, ‘transparency’ it is using to bring Sri Lanka to the ‘Geneva Dock’ fulfilling one of the ‘agenda items’ of the separatist-pro Eelam elements within the Global Tamil Diaspora.
The Amnesty International in its 2008 report on America’s culpability to war crimes noted “There is not a single fix that will bring the USA’s actions on counterterrorism into compliance with international law. The violations in the “war on terror” have been many and varied, and the government has exploited a long-standing reluctance of the USA to commit itself fully to international law, including in relation to recognizing the full range of its international obligations with respect to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The question of accountability and remedy for violations in the “war on terror” must therefore be part of a new commitment by the USA to international law.”
The London Guardian gave a startling revelation on January 23 when it said “America’s professional association of psychologists has quietly declined to rebuke one of its members, a retired US army reserve officer, for his role in one of the most brutal interrogations known to have taken place at Guantánamo Bay.”
The decision not to pursue any disciplinary measure against John Leso, a former army reserve major, is the latest case in which someone involved in the post-9/11 torture of detainees has faced no legal or even professional consequences.
In a 31 December letter obtained by the Guardian, the American Psychological Association said it had “determined that we cannot proceed with formal charges in this matter. Consequently the complaint against Dr Leso has been closed.”
But the APA did not deny Leso took part in the brutal interrogation of the suspected 20th 9/11 hijacker, Mohammed al-Qahtani, whose treatment the Pentagon official overseeing his military commission ultimately called “torture”.
Leso was identified as “MAJ L” in a leaked log, published by Time magazine in 2005, of Qahtani’s marathon interrogation in November 2002. With Leso recorded as present for at least some of the session, Qahtani was forcibly hydrated through intravenous drips and prevented from using the bathroom until he urinated on himself, subjected to loud music, and repeatedly kept awake while being “told he can go to sleep when he tells the truth”.
Documents that emerged from a (US) Senate armed services committee torture inquiry detailed Leso’s involvement in an early “Behavioral Science Consultation Team” at Guantánamo, which was instrumental in crafting torture techniques out of measures taught to US troops to withstand brutal treatment.
Then we have several other US violations of international humanitarian law not brought before the UNHRC in Geneva. And no ‘truth commission’ within the US system to probe such dastardly crimes.
Gul Rahman died in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002, after being shackled to a cold concrete wall in a secret CIA prison in northern Kabul, Afghanistan, known as the Salt Pit. He was suspected of links to the terrorist group al-Qaida. Rahman is the only detainee known to have died in a CIA-run prison.
Al-Jamadi, another enemy combatant under interrogation in the hands of Americans, died in 2003 at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. A military autopsy declared al-Jamadi’s death a homicide.
At Abu Ghraib prison, instead of turning al-Jamadi over to the Army, CIA officers took him to a shower stall. They put a sandbag over his head, cuffed his hands behind his back and chained his arms to a barred window.
When he leaned forward, his arms stretched painfully behind and above his back.
The Obama administration’s Attorney General Eric Holder on August 30 last year officially announced that no one would be prosecuted for the deaths of these prisoners, one in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, eliminating the last possibility that any criminal charges will be brought as a result of the brutal interrogations carried out by the C.I.A.
In its refusal to investigate the Bush-era torture practices, President Obama himself declaring that he prefers to look forward, not backward, the Obama administration announced June 30 (2011) that it would shut down 99 investigations into deaths of prisoners in US custody during the “war on terror,” leaving only two investigations with the potential to develop into criminal prosecutions.
What Eric Holder announced on August 30 last year was the dismissal of the last two remaining torture-death investigations under the watch of the CIA.
Mr. Holder had previously ruled out any charges related to the use of waterboarding and other methods that most human rights experts consider to be torture. His announcement closes a contentious three-year investigation by the Justice Department.
“Based on the fully developed factual record concerning the two deaths, the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt,” Holder statement said. It said the investigation “was not intended to, and does not resolve, broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct.”
“It is hugely disappointing that with ample evidence of torture, and documented cases of some people actually being tortured to death, that the Justice Department has not been able to mount a successful prosecution and hold people responsible for these crimes,” said Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First. “The American people need to know what was done in their name.”
She said her group’s own investigation of the deaths of prisoners showed that initial inquiries were bungled by military and intelligence officers in charge of prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rendition of enemy combatants meaning sending terrorist suspects who are in the custody of the United States to their home countries which are notorious for their torture chambers was an established practiced in the Bush-Cheney administration. The Bush administration itself developed ‘enhanced interrogation’ regimen that was widely accepted as torture.
Simulated drowning technique called waterboarding, an established torture method, Dick Chaney even now supports.
Then comes transparency and accountability under the Obama administration.
The United States which stands for transparency and accountability in other nations monitoring those nations’ domestic battles has shown absolute minimal preparedness when it comes to its own transparency and accountability.
Shunning accountability and transparency since the advent of the Obama administration as an attempt to suppress the brutality of enhanced interrogation which is widely known as torture, prisoner rendition, and other violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) has now become an official policy.
US call for Accountability in Sri Lanka
At a press conference in the premises of the American Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka on May 4 (2011) winding up his three-day visit, the assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs of the State Department Robert Blake said
“The United States has continually expressed to the Government of Sri Lanka the importance of implementing a credible and independent process to ensure accountability. Domestic authorities have responsibility to ensure that those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law are held accountable. International mechanisms can become appropriate in cases where states are either unable or unwilling to meet their obligations.”
That is exactly the intention of the United States, well supported by the separatist-Eelamist elements within the Global Tamil Diaspora, to go beyond the UNHRC in Geneva toward an ‘international mechanism’.
Previously on March 14 (2011) Mr. Blake addressing the Asia Society in New York that discussed the developments in Sri Lanka warned “Accountability is an essential part of any reconciliation process. Without it an enduring peace will remain elusive as unhealed wounds fester. Primary responsibility for implementing a credible and independent process through which individuals who may have violated human rights and international humanitarian law are held accountable for their actions lies with Sri Lanka itself. Our strong preference is that the Sri Lankan government establish its own transparent process that meets international standards. However, in the absence of such a mechanism, there will be mounting pressure for an international mechanism.”
Bringing pressure and forcing Sri Lanka to undertake accountability for what occurred during the final stages (Jan-May 2009) of the battle between the Tiger cadres and Sri Lankan military has been the corner stone policy of the US State Department since the demise of the LTTE which has helped pro-separatist/Tamil Tiger lobbies in Washington and in other European Capitals to help build a global voice to isolate Sri Lanka to achieve to bifurcate the nation that the LTTE failed for twenty six years. This State Department ‘accountability and transparency’ call led Sri Lanka to face scrutiny in Geneva before UN Human Rights Commission in previous years, and now this March..
Truth, Accountability in US
“Truth, accountability, reform, and reconciliation are milestones in the road to security. And they are milestones that must be reached in that order. For truth is the foundation of all else. Without it, accountability is abusive, reform is blind, and reconciliation is hollow. And accountability and reform are preconditions for reconciliation as well. For, without them, the victims have no reason to believe that the crimes will not be revisited, upon them or upon others, in the future. Consequently, they will continue to be on guard. Worse yet, they may feel that the period of abuse has not really ended, and they will not be delivered from the temptation to retaliate.”
The above paragraph was taken from a study done by the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas at the University of California at Davis. The study was “Truth, Accountability, Reform and Reconciliation: The Road to Security and the Restoration of American Values.”
The Davis study highlights the violation of International Humanitarian Laws and universally-accepted human rights practices by the United States since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in Washington and New York.
The University of California, Davis study undertaken by academics and professionals in their final report outlines the violation of IHL and universally-accepted human rights as:
“According to credible information, the practices and policies enacted since 9/11 have involved international alliances with criminal armed groups; human trafficking; civilian arrests without warrants; denial of the writ of habeas corpus; secret detention; life-threatening, open-air, holding pens; medical neglect; interference of interrogation on medical treatment; fatal, disabling, and disfiguring beatings; hanging by the wrists; threats of death or bodily harm; mauling by military dogs; torture by proxy (extraordinary rendition); controlled drowning (waterboarding); sensory deprivation; sensory assault; forced nudity; temperature and dietary manipulation; sleep deprivation; disorientation in space and time; positional torture (stress positions and prolonged standing); binding torture (tight shackling or cuffing); solitary confinement; indefinite detention; severe humiliation; sexual assaults; assaults with excreta; forced feeding; interference with religious practices; verbal abuse, and the exploitation of cultural idiosyncrasies and personal phobias.”
The study declares: “These policies and practices are outrages upon human dignity, and are subject to criminal prosecution under both national and international law.”
This exactly what the Thursday announcement of US Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed – the dismissal of accountability, transparency and truth the United States always urge other nations to adhere to.
The Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas of the University of California at Davis report says:
“What are the prospects that these recommendations will be heeded? At present, they are next to nil. Invoking pragmatism, President Obama has called on us to look forwards rather than back, thus failing to realize that we cannot look forwards without looking back. Restoring our values, repairing our image, and curbing terrorism are goals that we must achieve in the future. Yet, none of these goals may be reached if we do not face the past first and objectively assess what has been done in the name of the American people. As far as we can see, this can best be done through an independent, nonpartisan, transparent, and thorough investigation into the facts, circumstances, and policies employed in response to the September 11 attacks.”