U.N. rights advocate seeks release of findings on CIA detention

March 4, 2013

An independent U.N. human rights advocate will call on the United States and Britain on Tuesday to release the findings of confidential inquiries into the George W. Bush administration’s secret CIA detention and interrogation practices.

In a report to be presented to the Human Rights Council, Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, will ask the Obama administration to turn over the findings of an investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), into the alleged torture of detainees in the war on terrorism.

“The special rapporteur calls on the United States to release the full Senate Select Committee report as soon as possible, subject to the specific redaction of such particulars as are considered by the Select committee itself to be strictly necessary to safeguard legitimate national security interests or the physical safety of persons identified,” report says.

Emmerson will also make a request to the British government to release the interim findings of an inquiry chaired by Sir Peter Gibson, a retired judge, that was established in July 2010 to determine the extent of British authorities’ knowledge or involvement in the treatment or rendition of detainees during the war on terrorism.

A spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment on the U.S. reaction to the request, saying that officials had only received a copy of the statement and were still studying it.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has ruled out any criminal prosecutions of American interrogators as long as they were operating within the bounds of legal advice outlined by the Bush administration’s Office of Legal Counsel. “In the view of the special rapporteur,” Emmerson wrote, “this comes close to an assertion of the ‘superiors orders’ defense, despite its prohibition under customary law and international treaties.”

The request for information by Emmerson, as an independent U.N. rights specialist, does not come with the backing of the U.N. leadership. And the United States has no legal obligation to comply with the request.

But the call reflected the persistence of international efforts by human rights advocates to prod the United States to provide a more detailed account of its activities and to hold U.S. officials accountable for any crimes they may have committed. Emmerson has also launched an investigation into the United States’ use of drones in targeted killings.

“The process of seeking the truth has gathered momentum, and calls for accountability are fast approaching a critical mass,” Emmerson said in a speech Monday at the United Nations’ Geneva headquarters organized by the Open Society Foundations’ Justice Initiative. He said he intended to highlight “the failure to date of the international community to secure full accountability for the acts of certain sections of the Bush-era CIA in implementing a counterterrorism program in the early years after 9/11.”

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