UN rights chief urges US to hold Bush-era officials accountable for torture

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in a May 14 New York Times op-ed, urged the US to hold accountable those accused of committing torture under the Bush administration. Pillay welcomed the US as a new member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and lauded decisions by President Barack Obama to ban torture and close CIA prisons and to review detentions at Guantánamo Bay, but said that the US should hold accountable anyone who committed human rights abuses:

Although much more needs to be done, President Obama’s determination to resolve the untenable situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, ban CIA prisons and implement the prohibition on torture in compliance with international standards is highly welcome. The US should also shed light into the still opaque areas that surround capture, interrogation methods, rendition and detention conditions of those alleged to have been involved in terrorism, and ensure that perpetrators of torture and abuse are held to account.

Pillay said the US can benefit the UNHRC if it supports international human-rights standards and said the US has the responsibility of approaching human rights in a way that sets an example for the rest of the world.

After announcing in April that it would seek a seat on the UNHRC, the US was elected to the 47-member council for the first time May 12. In anticipation of the election, the State Department released its set of human-rights commitments and pledges. When the UNHRC was created in 2006, the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment by the UNHRC. Last month, UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak insisted that under international law the US must prosecute Department of Justice lawyers who drafted recently released memos detailing harsh interrogation techniques. Obama has said that he would not rule out the possibility of prosecuting lawyers responsible for authoring the memos. (Jurist, May 15)

See our last post on the torture scandal.

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