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Inside Story Americas
Will US personnel ever face torture charges?
Any attempts to prosecute those responsible for the torture of prisoners under George Bush have been dropped.
Last Modified: 05 Sep 2012 09:04

The administration of Barack Obama, the US president, has dropped any attempts to prosecute those responsible for the torture of prisoners during the presidency of George Bush, the former US president.

So, will any US personnel ever face criminal charges over the abuse of prisoners?

They are interrogation techniques widely considered to constitute torture and an aspect of Bush's so-called 'war on terror' that was heavily-criticised - not least by the man who replaced him.

"Waterboarding violates our ideals and our values. I do believe it is torture," Obama once said.

"You have two dead bodies - one of which has already been ruled a homicide. That there cannot be a further investigation into that or that there is not enough evidence is frankly beyond me .... Torture is not a question of definitions."

- Kristine Huskey from Physicians for Human Rights

Now, despite a vow to "restore America's moral standing" in the world, Obama's administration has ended its pursuit of US personnel accused of abusing prisoners in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, made the announcement last week, saying that the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. 

An investigation that initially looked at 101 cases, in the end examined just two - that of Gul Rahman, who died in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan in 2002, and Manadel al-Jamadi, who died in CIA custody at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison in 2003.

The decision not to prosecute even these cases has dismayed Obama supporters - who had hoped that his presidency would mark a clear break from his predecessor's.

And while CIA operatives - and those who gave them their orders - apparently now enjoy immunity from torture charges, one man is to face a criminal trial: John C Kiriakou, the intelligence officer who confirmed to journalists that torture had taken place.

So, how will this affect the US' standing in the world? And without accountability, can we be sure that such abuses have stopped?

Joining Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, to discuss this are guests: Robert Grenier, a former director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre; Kristine Huskey, the director of the anti-torture programme at Physicians for Human Rights; and Scott Horton, an international human rights expert and contributing editor of Harper's Magazine


BUSH AND OBAMA'S RECORD ON TORTURE:

  • Obama closed overseas CIA prisons on his first day in office
  • Obama banned enhanced interrogation techniques on his second day in office
  • Obama banned waterboarding after he took office
  • In 2009, Obama announced an inquiry into interrogation techniques
  • Reports of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq emerged in 2004
  • The Bush administration authorised previously off-limits techniques, arguing that the 'war on terror' made the Geneva Conventions obsolete
  • In 2002, Bush administration officials sought to redefine torture
  • Techniques approved by the Bush administration included waterboarding
  • Bush administration officials authorised 10 techniques banned by the field manual

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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