Human rights groups and the United Nations have called for the prosecution of US officials involved in what a Senate report called the “brutal” CIA interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects.
A top UN human rights envoy said there had been a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level”.
The CIA has defended its actions in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US, saying they saved lives.
President Barack Obama said it was now time to move on.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson said that senior officials from the administration of George W. Bush who planned and sanctioned crimes must be prosecuted, as well as CIA and US government officials responsible for torture such as waterboarding.
“As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Ben Emmerson said in a statement made from Geneva.
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said that the CIA’s actions were criminal “and can never be justified”.
“Unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of officials, torture will remain a <<policy option>> for future presidents,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that the attorney general should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct “an independent and complete investigation of Bush administration officials who created, approved, carried out and covered up the torture program”.
“The crime of torture has no statute of limitations when torture risks or results in serious injury or death, and the US government has the obligation under international law to investigate any credible evidence that torture has been committed,” an ACLU statement said.
“If there’s sufficient evidence of criminal conduct… The offenders should be prosecuted. In our system, no one should be above the law, yet only a handful of mainly low-level personnel have been criminally prosecuted for abuse. That is a scandal.”
CIA torture report key findings:
None of 20 cases of counterterrorism “successes” attributed to the techniques led to unique or otherwise unavailable intelligence
The CIA misled politicians and public
At least 26 of 119 known detainees in custody during the life of the program were wrongfully held, and many held for months longer than they should have been
Methods included sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, often standing or in painful positions
Saudi al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was kept confined in a coffin-sized box for hours on end
Waterboarding and “rectal hydration” were physically harmful to prisoners, causing convulsions and vomiting
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