Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today welcomed proposed legislation that would prevent the future use of torture or cruel treatment by the CIA or any other branch of the U.S. government. The organization said that the reforms, proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate intelligence committee, are an important step forward in ensuring that torture is never again the official policy of the United States. Human Rights First urges Congress to take up legislation implementing these reforms as a top priority in 2015.
“These reforms will provide clarity to those on the front lines defending our nation. We should never again ask any American to engage in torture or cruel treatment. It betrays who we are,” said retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, the former judge advocate general of the Navy.
Today’s proposed reforms follow the release of a landmark Senate intelligence committee study that documents widespread brutality, incompetence, and ineffectiveness in the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program. The study details shocking human rights abuses—including the use of “rectal feeding,” sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, and death and rape threats against detainees’ family members. The study also showed how torture and cruel treatment did not produce any unique, otherwise unavailable information to stop terrorist attacks or save American lives. The report’s findings enjoy widespread support from political, national security, and intelligence leaders, including Republican Senator John McCain. The report was also initiated, adopted, and submitted for declassification on three independent, bipartisan votes.
“By closing off key loopholes that allowed government officials to twist the law and sanction torture, the proposed reforms would go a long way to preventing future administrations from ever again engaging in torture or cruel treatment,” said Human Rights First’s Raha Wala. “These reforms are a big step in the right direction to putting the sad experiment with torture behind us.”
Senator Feinstein’s proposed legislative reforms would make it difficult for any future administration to sanction torture or cruel treatment by:
- Closing actual or perceived loopholes in the statutory prohibitions against torture and cruel treatment;
- Restricting the intelligence community—and the CIA in particular—to interrogation methods articulated in the Army Field Manual;
- Requiring that the International Committee of the Red Cross be provided notification of and access to detainees held in U.S. custody; and
- Prohibiting the CIA from holding detainees other than on a short-term, transitory basis.