Politics & Government

Human Rights advocates want criminal charges for officials responsible for torture

Human rights advocates are calling on the U.S. government to investigate and prosecute the officials responsible for the torture of detainees in CIA custody.

Gory details of the abuse came to light Tuesday with the release of a long-awaited Senate report on the CIA’s brutal interrogation techniques.

“Torture is always criminal and can never be justified,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “Prosecuting those who authorize torture as well as those who conducted it is essential to ensuring similar conduct doesn’t happen in the future.”

Congress and the White House also should strengthen legal prohibitions against torture and bolster oversight of the CIA, Prasow and other advocates said in a phone call with reporters Tuesday.

“The CIA’s torture program should shock the conscience of every American,” said Matt Hawthorne, policy director at the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “By being truthful about torture, our country has taken the first step to being sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The report confirms that the CIA is an out of control agency that is “so lawless that it creates more problems for the country than it solves,” said Chris Anders, senior legislative counsel in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office.

Anders noted that the statute of limitations hasn’t passed for torture that resulted in death.

“There remains criminal liability, and the question for the United States government is whether those incidents are going to be criminally investigated, as well as those who authorized the conduct. And that’s certainly a decision the attorney general has to make as to whether he will at long last will order a top to bottom criminal investigation."

A previous Justice Department investigation into the deaths of CIA detainees by federal prosecutor John Durham was closed without charges in 2012. Anders said the scope of that investigation still is not clear, but Durham did not appear to interview any of the victims of torture.

“It’s hard to see how you could run a full and comprehensive criminal investigation without talking to the victims of the crime,” he said.