The torture report: have the right lessons been learnt?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Despite the fact that polls show a bipartisan majority of Americans are in favour of its release, the saga of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into CIA torture and detention continues.

But while Congress and the Executive argue about redactions, we know a lot already, in part because of the work of the European Court of Human Rights which recently ruled (in the Al Nashiri and Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) judgements) that Poland had been complicit in the torture of at least two individuals, captured by the CIA and sent, in 2002, to the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence training base near the northern Polish town of Szczytno. And what we know about this and other cases of torture and ill-treatment is enough to draw some strong conclusions.

As APT Secretary General, Mark Thomson, argues in Swiss daily newspaper Le Temps (2 October 2014), the United States government needs to tackle impunity and bring those who committed violations to justice, it needs to improve democratic oversight of the intelligence and security services, and it needs to build a system of independent detention monitoring that can prevent torture and restore faith in justice. As he makes clear in the article:

"Mistreatment of detainees is not just something that happens at CIA black sites. It can happen – and happens – in federal prisons, in police cells and in immigration detention. It happens in all places where oversight is missing. Until such a proactive national preventive policy is implemented, with the Senate’s support, the lessons of the past decade will not have been learnt. For those who try to look forward, it will be towards a view that, tragically, predicts repetition."

Read the Le Temps article here (Subscription required)