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Amnesty hits US on terror war torture

Reuters, USA
Oct. 27, 2004 • Thursday October 28, 2004

Faults response after 9/11 attacks

LONDON — The United States has not upheld obligations to reject torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading behavior in the war on terror launched after Sept. 11, 2001, Amnesty International said today.

The human rights group condemned the US administration’s response to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington as one which had resulted in its own “iconography of torture, cruelty, and degradation.”

“The war mentality the government has adopted has not been matched with a commitment to the laws of war, and it has discarded fundamental human rights principles along the way,” it said in a report.

Amnesty’s report — “Human dignity denied: Torture and accountability in the ‘war on terror’ ” — accused Washington of stepping onto a “well-trodden path of violating basic rights in the name of national security or ‘military necessity’.”

At best, Washington was guilty of setting conditions for torture and cruel treatment by lowering safeguards and failing to respond adequately to allegations of abuse, it said.

At worst, it had authorized interrogation techniques which flouted its international obligation to reject torture and ill-treatment under any circumstances.

A US Army general acknowledged for the first time in August that American troops had tortured prisoners at the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. Pentagon leaders and Bush administration officials had previously steered clear of describing the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners as torture.

Photographs that surfaced in April showed US soldiers posing, smiling, and giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.

A prisoner in one photo was directed to stand on a box with his head hooded, and wires attached to his hands, and was told that if he fell off the box he would be electrocuted.

Amnesty said the United States and the rest of the world would be “haunted by these and other images for years to come” and described them as “icons of a government’s failure to put human rights at its heart.”

The report also criticized a tendency in the United States to gloss over aspects of war and violence — referring to torture and degrading treatment as “stress and duress” for example — which it said threatened to promote tolerance of them.

“The human rights violations which the US government has been so reluctant to call torture when committed by its own agents are annually described as such by the State Department when they occur in other countries,” it said.

“Double standards have greatly undermined the credibility of the US’s global discourse on human rights.” Amnesty urged Washington to adopt a fundamental change of direction to ensure compliance with international rights laws.

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