Justice Decision a Positive Step, But Further Investigations Needed
Washington, D.C.—Attorney General Holder’s decision to open a full criminal investigation into the death of two individuals in U.S. custody is a step in the right direction. The investigation should be fully resourced and insulated from political interference. But given what we know about the widespread, systematic practices of torture and official cruelty imposed on persons in U.S. custody, the Department of Justice should not limit its investigation to a mere two cases. Nor should investigation be limited to “foot soldiers” in the torture regime while the higher-ups who designed and promoted it enjoy impunity. “The United States must reckon with its past policies and practices that subverted American values and badly damaged our moral leadership. Accountability not only provides justice for the individual, but it also ensures past mistakes are not repeated,” said Human Rights First’s Melina Milazzo. “The U.S. will not be successful at ending torture and abuse until it has an established system designed to prevent abuse before it happens, punish it when it does, and deter any who might think it is possible to get away with abuse.” In 2006, Human Rights First released a report, Command’s Responsibility, examining the deaths of almost 100 detainees in U.S. military custody. HRF found that although nearly half of those cases appeared to have been the result of homicide or physical abuse, U.S. officials were punished in connection with only 12 of those cases. Moreover, the stiffest sentence given to a U.S. official for a torture-related death was only 5 months in prison. Human Rights First plans to release an updated report on the deaths of detainees in U.S. custody and the military’s record on accountability later this year. Attorney General’s full statement can be found here: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/June/11-ag-861.html.