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US Justice Department Closes the Door on Accountability in Torture Cases

For Immediate Release

The US Justice Department’s decision to end its criminal investigation of the CIA’s torture of prisoners without bringing a single prosecution is a shameful setback in a sordid chapter of American history, Physicians for Human Rights declared today.

“We are deeply disappointed that the US government has refused to bring charges against those responsible for heinous acts of torture resulting in two deaths – in violation of US and international law,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s Executive Director. “What message does it send to other countries and to the American public when neither the officials who authorized such abusive interrogation techniques nor the people who implemented them are compelled to answer for their crimes in a court of law?”

Since 2003, PHR has investigated allegations that US national security personnel used abusive interrogation techniques amounting to torture as part of their intelligence-gathering activities. Subsequent PHR reports have documented the systematic use of physical and psychological torture against detainees at US detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Aug. 30 that the Justice Department had dropped its investigation into the deaths of two prisoners who had been tortured, one in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, “because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”  

“We had hoped for better from this administration,” said McKay, who noted Holder’s declaration that “no one is above the law” when asked during his Senate confirmation hearings in 2009 about immunizing from criminal charges people who used waterboarding in interrogating detainees.

“Two men died as a result of extreme abuse while in US custody, and no one will be held criminally accountable,” McKay said. “America had an opportunity to right a wrong, but instead our government let us down and fell far short of both our legal and our moral responsibilities. It is a dark day for human rights when anti-torture laws can apparently be violated with impunity.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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