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For Immediate Release

US Justice Department Closes the Door on Accountability in Torture Cases

Cambridge, Mass. - 08/31/2012

The US Justice Department’s decision to end its criminal investigation of the CIA’s torture of prisoners without bringing a single prosecution is a shameful setback in a sordid chapter of American history, Physicians for Human Rights declared today.

“We are deeply disappointed that the US government has refused to bring charges against those responsible for heinous acts of torture resulting in two deaths – in violation of US and international law,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s Executive Director. “What message does it send to other countries and to the American public when neither the officials who authorized such abusive interrogation techniques nor the people who implemented them are compelled to answer for their crimes in a court of law?”

Since 2003, PHR has investigated allegations that US national security personnel used abusive interrogation techniques amounting to torture as part of their intelligence-gathering activities. Subsequent PHR reports have documented the systematic use of physical and psychological torture against detainees at US detention facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo Bay.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Aug. 30 that the Justice Department had dropped its investigation into the deaths of two prisoners who had been tortured, one in Afghanistan in 2002 and another in Iraq in 2003, “because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”  

“We had hoped for better from this administration,” said McKay, who noted Holder’s declaration that “no one is above the law” when asked during his Senate confirmation hearings in 2009 about immunizing from criminal charges people who used waterboarding in interrogating detainees.

“Two men died as a result of extreme abuse while in US custody, and no one will be held criminally accountable,” McKay said. “America had an opportunity to right a wrong, but instead our government let us down and fell far short of both our legal and our moral responsibilities. It is a dark day for human rights when anti-torture laws can apparently be violated with impunity.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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