Administration Attempts End Run (Again) Around Torture Prohibitions
Human Rights First today expressed serious concerns about the administration’s public statements following the deal struck yesterday with the Senate leadership.
“In the last 24 hours, the administration has already cast doubt on its intention to enforce the law” said Elisa Massimino, Washington director of Human Rights First. “This is not the first time this administration has tried to do an end run around its obligations and the law when it comes to human rights. In a statement given while signing the McCain anti-torture legislation last January, the president claimed he could bypass the law as he saw fit, leaving the door open to more abuses. Now the administration is claiming it can do whatever it wants before the ink is even dry on the most recent anti-torture agreement.
For example, an essential agreement in yesterday’s deal was the inclusion of provisions that would criminalize certain interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. The administration tried to preserve for the CIA the use of such techniques but the agreement specifically intended to prohibit them. But today, the administration refused to rule out the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.
The agreement that Senator McCain and others reached with the White House leaves the meaning of Common Article 3 and the ban on cruel or inhuman treatment intact, and that has very specific and important consequences. Senator McCain himself has stated, “There will be no such thing as waterboarding. We outlined the grave breaches of conduct. And you will never see that again. And we’ve stood up and said that cannot be done. Most importantly, we said we will not change the Geneva Conventions.” “Unfortunately,” said Massimino, “the initial response from the administration suggests that they have no intention of complying with either the letter or the spirit of the law. It will be on Congress, as it considers the agreement, to hold the administration to the legal standard that the Geneva Conventions requires.”
Serious Concerns Remain
Yesterday’s announced deal preserved important protections concerning detainee treatment, but Human Rights First remains very concerned about other provisions in the agreement including: stripping of habeas corpus and judicial review, admissibility of coerced evidence, and denial of evidence to the accused.