A damning report on the United States’ brutal treatment of War on Terror detainees triggered worldwide condemnation on Wednesday and calls for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents and senior officials to face justice.
That US interrogators tortured Al-Qaeda suspects in secret jails was known, but a detailed Senate report into the scandal was seized upon by America’s shocked friends and gloating enemies alike.
China and Iran, whose own human rights records have often been criticised by Washington, denounced the abuses – but so did Germany and the new pro-US leader of Afghanistan.
“Such a gross violation of our liberal, democratic values must not happen again,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, reflecting the embarrassment of Washington’s European allies.
European Commission spokesperson Catherine Ray welcomed the transparency of the report but warned it “raises important questions about the violation of human rights by the US authorities”.
America’s great power rival China – often on the end of US censure for its rights record – was equally unimpressed.
“We believe the US side should reflect upon itself, correct its ways and earnestly respect and abide by the rules of international conventions,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said.
‘Tyranny vs humanity’
Sensing an opportunity to poke its traditional foe, Iran seized upon the report to throw back some of the human rights criticism that its own notorious prisons regularly receive.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took to Twitter to declare the US a “symbol of tyranny against humanity” – not just in the CIA torture programme, but in domestic law enforcement.
In next door war-torn Afghanistan, the new leader, who America hopes will work with it to ensure a smooth end to the US combat mission there, distanced himself from his ally’s excesses.
“The Afghan government condemns these inhumane actions in the strongest terms,” President Ashraf Ghani told a specially convened news conference at his presidential palace in Kabul.
“There can be no justification for these kinds of actions and inhumane torture in today’s world.”
Poland, which hosted one of the secret CIA detention centers where detainees were shackled, threatened and abused in a variety of bloodcurdling ways, was also shamed by the report.
Former leader Aleksander Kwasniewski said that as president he had put pressure on his then US counterpart George W. Bush to end brutality at the so-called “dark site” in 2003.
“I told Bush that this cooperation must end and it did end,” Kwasniewski told local media.
Those who broke international laws prohibiting torture must be prosecuted, he added.
The United Nations said the programme violated international law and basic human rights and British-based advocacy group CAGE demanded criminal proceedings.
Around the world, human rights bodies have demanded that current US President Barack Obama – who halted the torture but has not gone after the perpetrators – take legal action.
That is unlikely. In Washington, a senior official told reporters that nothing in the Senate Intelligence Committee report would change a decision not to prosecute.
“There was a career federal prosecutor assigned to this case and this individual conducted an extensive inquiry,” White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said on CNN.
“And upon looking at the facts in evidence decided not to pursue an indictment.”
The report, released by Democratic committee chairperson Dianne Feinstein over the objections of some of her Republican colleagues, said CIA torture had been more brutal than previously acknowledged.
It was also badly supervised and ineffective, it found, and CIA officials deliberately misled Congress and the White House about the value of the intelligence its interrogators were gathering.
Detainees were beaten, waterboarded – some of them dozens of times – and humiliated through the painful use of medically unnecessary “rectal feeding” and “rectal rehydration,” the report said.
In response to the report, Obama acknowledged that torture had been counterproductive and contrary to American values.
“No nation is perfect.” he said. “But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”
Former vice president Dick Cheney, who served under Bush, slammed the report, defended the interrogation program as effective.
“The report’s full of crap, excuse me. I said hooey yesterday – let me use the real word,” he told Fox News.
“We did exactly what needed to be done in order to catch those who were guilty on 9/11 and to prevent a further attack, and we were successful on both parts,” Cheney said. – AFP