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Amnesty International's List of US Officials who ordered the Use of Torture

 

www.globalresearch.ca 28 May 2005

The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/AMN505A.html


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CSPAN VIDEO: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL US PRESS CONFERENCE

(courtesy Information Clearing House ):

 

Click here to play in remote player (for better viewing)

 


 

TRANSCRIPT OF AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NEWS CONFERENCE

NATIONAL PRESS CLUB , WASHINGTON, D.C.

WILLIAM SCHULZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA

 

HIGHLIGHTS

We've documented that the U.S. government is a leading purveyor and practitioner of this odious human rights violation. And the refusal of the U.S. government to conduct a truly independent investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention centers is tantamount to a whitewash, if not a cover-up, of these disgraceful events...

If the U.S. government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls today on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved in the torture scandal. And if those investigations support prosecution, those foreign governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and should begin legal proceedings against that official.

Crimes such as torture are so serious that they amount to an offense against all of humanity and they require government to investigate and prosecute people responsible for those crimes no matter where the crime was committed.

Amnesty International issues a list today.

The List includes Donald Rumsfeld, who approved a December 2002 memorandum that permitted such unlawful interrogation techniques as stress positions, prolonged isolation, stripping and the use of dogs at Guantanamo Bay. It includes William Haynes, the Defense Department general counsel who wrote that memo. It includes Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, who was cited in the memo as concurring with its recommendation. Our list includes Major General Geoffery Miller, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, whose subordinates used some of the approved torture techniques and who was then himself sent to Iraq, where he recommended that prison guards, quote, "soften up detainees for interrogation."

And it includes former CIA Director George Tenet, whose agency kept so-called ghost detainees off registration logs and hidden during visits by the Red Cross, and whose operatives reportedly used such techniques as water boarding, fainting, suffocation, stress positions and incommunicado detention.

Our list includes Attorney General Gonzales, who called the Geneva conventions "quaint and obsolete" in a January 2002 memo, and who requested the memos that fueled the atrocities at Abu Ghraib.

It includes Lieutenant Richard Sanchez, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; and Sanchez's deputy Major General Walter Wojdakowski, who failed to ensure proper staff oversight of detention and interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib, according to the military's Fay-Jones report.

And it includes Captain Carolyn Wood, who oversaw interrogation operations at Bagram Air Base, and who permitted the use of dogs, stress positions and sensory deprivations.

Now, as I say this is by no means an exhaustive list of those who deserve investigation. And we would be remiss if we ignored President George Bush's own role in this scandal. After all, his administration has repeatedly justified its detention and interrogation policies as legitimate under the president's powers as commander in chief of the armed forces.

And President Bush signed a February 2002 memo stating that the Geneva conventions did not apply to Taliban or Al Qaida detainees, and that their humane treatment should be contingent on, quote, "military necessity." This set the stage for the tragic abuse of detainees.

Without full and impartial investigations of all key players, the torture scandal will come to be as indelibly associated with the Bush presidency as Teapot Dome is with Warren Harding's or Watergate with Richard Nixon's.

(...)

Torture has, of course, been used by the United States before.

What is different here is that an explicit rationale for the support of torture was articulated by high administration officials. And the specific authorization by the secretary of defense, among others, of the use of specific torture techniques, that, I believe, is unprecedented or at least, certainly, it has never been revealed before to the public.

And that, I think, lifts this particular case to an entirely new level. It is one thing to have individuals practicing torture or committing human rights violations without any kind of rationale or support, much less command, from those who are their superiors. That is one thing that happens in virtually every country, I suspect, or has happened.

It is quite another thing for the highest officials in the land to authorize, rationalize and, indeed, potentially -- and this is what needs to be investigated -- potentially plot or conspire to allow this to happen, and, indeed, to therefore reasons why those who undertake it ought not to be subjected both to international and the U.S.'s own laws. That's a very different situation. That's the essence of the scandal here.

 


 

COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT

 

SCHULZ: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm William F. Schulz, the executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Today, Amnesty International releases its annual report on the state of human rights around the world. What we have found brings shame to governments from Afghanistan to the United States. We have documented the use of torture and ill treatment, widespread throughout the world.

We've documented that the U.S. government is a leading purveyor and practitioner of this odious human rights violation. And the refusal of the U.S. government to conduct a truly independent investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention centers is tantamount to a whitewash, if not a cover-up, of these disgraceful events.

It is a failure of leadership to prosecute only enlisted soldiers and a few officers while protecting those who designed a deliberate government policy of torture and authorized interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The government investigation must climb all the way to the top of the military and civilian chains of command.

If the U.S. government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls today on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved in the torture scandal. And if those investigations support prosecution, those foreign governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and should begin legal proceedings against that official.

The apparent high-level architects of torture should therefore think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera, because they may well find themselves under arrest, as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned in 2002 that a failure to apply international law to detainees in Afghanistan may, quote, "provoke some individual foreign prosecutors to investigate and prosecute our officials and troops," unquote.

Well, it's not too late for President Bush to heed those words today and apply international law to all who are responsible for torture at all U.S. detention centers, not just in Afghanistan.

Secretary Powell also argued at the time that adhering to international law, quote, "preserves U.S. credibility and moral authority by taking the high ground."

But how far -- how far from that moral high ground the U.S. government has fallen. Its descent into torture and ill treatment includes, as we know, beatings, prolonged restraint in painful positions, hooding and the use of dogs at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Base, and the rendering of detainees to countries that practice torture.

Tolerance for torture and ill treatment, signaled by a failure to investigate and prosecute those responsible, is the most effective encouragement for it to expand and grow. Like a virus, the techniques used by the United States will multiply and spread unless those who plotted their use are held accountable.

Those who conducted the abusive interrogations must be held to account, but so, too, must those who schemed to authorize those actions, sometimes from the comfort of government buildings.

If the United States permits the architects of torture policy to get off scot free, then other nations should step into the breach.

SCHULZ: Foreign governments that are party to the Geneva Conventions and/or the Convention Against Torture -- and that is some 190 countries -- and countries that have national legislation that authorizes prosecutions -- and that is at least 125 countries -- all of those countries have a legally binding obligation to exercise what is known as universal jurisdiction over people accused of grave breaches of the conventions or the laws.

Governments are required to investigate suspects and if warranted to prosecute them or to extradite them to a country that will prosecute.

Crimes such as torture are so serious that they amount to an offense against all of humanity and they require government to investigate and prosecute people responsible for those crimes no matter where the crime was committed.

Amnesty International issues a list today. It is not a comprehensive list, but it is a list of those who may be considered high-level torture architects. And that list includes Donald Rumsfeld, who approved a December 2002 memorandum that permitted such unlawful interrogation techniques as stress positions, prolonged isolation, stripping and the use of dogs at Guantanamo Bay. It includes William Haynes, the Defense Department general counsel who wrote that memo. It includes Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, who was cited in the memo as concurring with its recommendation.

Our list includes Major General Geoffery Miller, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, whose subordinates used some of the approved torture techniques and who was then himself sent to Iraq, where he recommended that prison guards, quote, "soften up detainees for interrogation."

And it includes former CIA Director George Tenet, whose agency kept so-called ghost detainees off registration logs and hidden during visits by the Red Cross, and whose operatives reportedly used such techniques as water boarding, fainting, suffocation, stress positions and incommunicado detention.

Our list includes Attorney General Gonzales, who called the Geneva conventions "quaint and obsolete" in a January 2002 memo, and who requested the memos that fueled the atrocities at Abu Ghraib.

It includes Lieutenant Richard Sanchez, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; and Sanchez's deputy Major General Walter Wojdakowski, who failed to ensure proper staff oversight of detention and interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib, according to the military's Fay-Jones report.

And it includes Captain Carolyn Wood, who oversaw interrogation operations at Bagram Air Base, and who permitted the use of dogs, stress positions and sensory deprivations.

Now, as I say this is by no means an exhaustive list of those who deserve investigation. And we would be remiss if we ignored President George Bush's own role in this scandal. After all, his administration has repeatedly justified its detention and interrogation policies as legitimate under the president's powers as commander in chief of the armed forces.

And President Bush signed a February 2002 memo stating that the Geneva conventions did not apply to Taliban or Al Qaida detainees, and that their humane treatment should be contingent on, quote, "military necessity." This set the stage for the tragic abuse of detainees.

Without full and impartial investigations of all key players, the torture scandal will come to be as indelibly associated with the Bush presidency as Teapot Dome is with Warren Harding's or Watergate with Richard Nixon's.

What's more, it's the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. government itself to use the very torture techniques that it routinely condemns in other countries. The Bush administration which saw fit in its most recent country reports on human rights practices to criticize Syria for administering electric shocks appears to have used the same torture technique in the war on terror.

Amnesty International took testimony, for example, from Mohammed Al-Dasari (ph), who alleged that U.S. soldiers subjected him to electric shocks, death threats, assault and humiliation in Kandahar.

The Bush administration cited Egypt for beating victims with fists, whips and metal rods. And yet U.S. Major Michael Smith testified at an administrative review hearing last year that an autopsy of a captured Iraqi general revealed that he had suffered five broken ribs that were, quote, "consistent with blunt force trauma. That is either punching, kicking or striking with an object or being thrown into an object," close quote.

SCHULZ: When the U.S. government calls upon foreign leaders to bring to justice those who commit or authorize human rights violations in the own countries, why should those foreign leaders listen?

And if the U.S. government does not abide by the same standards of justice, what shred of moral authority will we retain to pressure other governments to diminish abuses?

It's far past time for President Bush to prove that he is not covering up the misdeeds of senior officials and political cronies who designed and authorized these nefarious interrogation policies.

So Congress must appointed a truly impartial and independent commission to investigate the masterminds of the atrocious human rights violations at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, and President Bush should use the power of his office to press Congress to do so.

And Attorney General Gonzales must appoint an independent special counsel to conduct criminal investigations into administration officials, including himself, who are suspected of having committed, assisted, authorized or condoned these abuses or had command responsibility for them. Such investigations must apply to both military and civilian officials who may be complicit in these crimes.

It is inexcusable that the few military higher-ups who have been held accountable have received the equivalent of a parental timeout for their wrongdoing. Among them, Colonel Thomas Pappas, the top military intelligence official stationed at Abu Ghraib in 2003, who was given only a reprimand and a fine amounting to one month's pay.

Even worse, for President Bush to promote and reward those who should be investigated makes a mockery of the principles of justice on which this nation was founded.

Those who were rewarded include, of course, as we know, Gonzales, promoted from White House counsel to the highest law enforcement position in the land; Timothy Flanagan, just nominated to serve as Gonzales' second in command, who allegedly contributed to several key legal opinions that led to torture; Haynes, the Defense counsel, who was nominated to serve on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals; and Jay Bybee, former assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, whose August 2002 memo argued that only interrogation techniques that cause pain that would ordinarily be associated with death or organ failure, only those, he said, constitute torture. He was later rewarded by being nominated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Furthermore, Amnesty International calls upon state bar authorities to investigate the administration lawyers alleged to be involved in the torture scandal, to investigate them for failing to meet professional responsibility standards.

The attorneys who wrote various legal opinions that may have provided cover for subsequent crimes and who should be investigated include Bybee and David Addington, general counsel to Vice President Cheney; Robert Delahunty, former special counsel in the Office of Homeland Security; and three attorneys in the Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general, Patrick Philbin, deputy assistant attorney general, and Jack Goldsmith, former assistant attorney general.

We also call on the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility to make public the findings of its investigations into the Bybee memo.

A wall of secrecy is protecting those who masterminded and developed U.S. torture policy. Unless those who drew the blueprint for torture, who approved it and ordered it implemented, are held accountable, the United States' once proud reputation as an exemplar of human rights will remain in tatters.

SCHULZ: Its shattered image will continue to fuel anti-American sentiment around the globe and will make the world a more dangerous place.

And Amnesty International's new report today documents just how dangerous the world remains. Nepal is on the brink of catastrophe. Each day there civilians face possible torture, disappearances, political executions, abduction, arbitrary detention, rape and other abuses at the hands of government security forces and insurgents from the Communist Party of Nepal.

New cases of torture are reported almost daily, and hundreds of student activists, journalists, trade unionists and human rights defenders have been arrested.

Despite the Nepali government's poor human rights record, since 2001 the U.S. government has provided it with more than $29 million in security assistance to fight the insurgents.

Amnesty International strongly condemns the human rights violations committed by those insurgents, but urges the U.S. government to immediately suspend all security assistance to the Nepalese military until fundamental human rights protections are restored.

We call on the government of Nepal to immediately release all prisoners of conscience, to reinstate fundamental freedoms and to bring to justice security forces who commit abuses.

As if the tsunami disaster in Indonesia weren't devastating enough, the human rights situation in the province of Aceh remains grave. The armed forces commit political killings, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence.

The Indonesian government must prosecute and punish all those who were involved in gross human right violations or who aided or abetted militia groups.

President Bush, when he meets today with Indonesia's President Yudhoyono, should urge him to allow human rights investigations into Aceh and seek assurances that the armed forces stationed there will not interfere with the delivery of tsunami disaster relief.

In Colombia, women and girls are caught in the crossfire of that country's decades-long armed conflict. For example, last July more than 10 soldiers from the 4th Brigade apparently gang-raped two girls aged 16 and 17. Some of the soldiers reportedly threatened the girls and their families after they reported the rape to the attorney general.

In October, armed groups allegedly killed four women, one of whom was pregnant, after accusing the women of having relations with security force members.

The Colombian government must do more to publicly condemn such violence, to aggressively investigate its security forces and to bring perpetrators to justice.

With the U.S. providing $600 million a year in security assistance to Colombia, the Bush administration must speak out against violence against women by Colombia's armed actors and withhold its certification of Colombia's human rights practices until they improve.

The administration must be resolute in pressing for an end to the killing of civilians by all parties to the conflict in Israel and the occupied territories.

Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly and deliberately targeted Israeli civilians in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks killing some 1,000 Israelis, including 110 children, in the last four and a half years.

The Israeli army and security services have killed unarmed Palestinians in repeated, reckless shootings, shellings and air strikes killing some 3,200 individuals, including more than 600 children.

While Amnesty International commends Israel's planned withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, the U.S. government should press Israel to evacuate settlers from scores of other settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Darfur region of Sudan remains in crisis, with 1.9 million people forced from their homes. The world stands idly watching as government-sponsored militias systematically target innocent civilians for ethnic cleansing.

The state of emergency permits Sudanese authorities to detain people indefinitely without charge or trial, to break up peaceful demonstrations and to violate human rights under the guise of counterinsurgency.

SCHULZ: Rape, kidnapping, attacks on civilians increased just this past month.

We urge President Bush to make Darfur a top priority of U.S. foreign policy.

While we welcome the president's decision to send Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick to Darfur, he would send a far stronger message by dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the country without delay, a country which, after all, the State Department itself has said is guilty of genocide.

We also call on the U.S. government and the international community to provide support to the International Criminal Court in its investigation into the crimes committed in Darfur and to insist that all parties to the conflict cooperate with the court.

And not all of our findings are grim. Amnesty International, which has campaigned with local women's organizations to end violence against women in Turkey, is pleased that the new Turkish penal code removes many of the gender discriminatory articles of past penal codes, and that towns must now establish domestic violence shelters.

More remains to be done. Amnesty calls on Turkish authorities to create guidelines for those shelters, to fund them and to conduct domestic violence training for police.

Other positive developments include the growing debate on political change in the Middle East, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that granted detainees in Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detention in courts and which provided a check thereby on the administration's overreaching, and also a ruling by the British House of Lords that indefinite detention of foreign nationals suspected of being international terrorists violated their human rights.

Today, as we focus on the torture scandal, Amnesty International USA announces a new grassroots campaign, "Denounce Torture. Stop It Now," it's called.

Public opinion surveys have shown that Americans oppose the use of torture. And Amnesty International will work to turn that opposition into action. We will educate and mobilize tens of thousands of people around the country to take action to end torture and ill-treatment and to pressure of the government to hold individuals accountable at all levels of the chain of command.

Mr. President, last year you said, quote, "Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country: We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and being."

President Bush, it is time to find out whether what you said is true. And if you did not order torture, then who did? It is time to prove that your words were not an artful cover-up of illegal actions. It is time to stop sheltering the apparent architects of torture policy, or else you will be known not for your promotion of democracy but for your perpetuation of demagoguery, not for your high-mindedness but for your hypocrisy.

Mr. President, tear down this wall of secrecy and silence.

Now, I thank you ladies and gentlemen. That is our opening statement.

And I and others here will be happy to take your questions.

We have with us Professor William Aceves, who is a specialist in international law -- professor at Cal Western Law School -- to respond to any of your questions of a legal nature. But I'm happy to address any of the matters that may be of interest to you.

QUESTION: Your report talks about tens of thousands of deaths in Sudan, talks about tens of thousands of prisoners in China. Your focus on the United States -- is it because the United States offenses are worse? Is it because Amnesty International can have more of an impact in the United States? Is it because the United States should be held to a higher standard?

SCHULZ: The United States is the most powerful country in the world and it represents itself as being a champion of human rights.

What the United States does or fails to do provides a model for the rest of the world; it's as simple as that. Whether we like it or not, that is a fundamental fact.

And therefore, what the United States does in its own human rights record, particularly if it itself is guilty of one of the most heinous human rights crimes in the world, the crime of torture, that has a resounding effect throughout the world.

SCHULZ: Amnesty International never compares countries or compares violations. We never rank countries. We never say one country is better or worse than another. That's not the point.

The point is that we here in the United States have a special responsibility, both because we're Americans and because of the role that the United States plays in the world, to make sure that our human rights record is as clean, as exemplary, as possible.

That's why we focused in this way.

QUESTION: Amnesty International has rejected calls by leading Russian human rights advocates and refused to designate Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience.

Could you explain why this is and whether we can expect that he will be designated as a political prisoner in the future?

SCHULZ: Let me say this: Amnesty has raised serious questions about that particular case. We certainly are monitoring that case closely.

We haven't declared him a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty's standards for doing so are very, very high. You ought not to take any implication from that beyond the fact that we have not made that particular designation in this case. But we have certainly raised serious questions about him.

I'm going to invite Maureen Greenwood, who is our specialist in this area, to add comments.

GREENWOOD: Amnesty International is concerned that the case against Mr. Khodorkovsky and his colleagues is politically motivated. We are concerned about interference in the lawyer-client process. We are concerned about the closed nature of the procedural issues, about detention and isolation of some of the suspects, about shortcomings in medical care provided to the detainees, and also to the alleged ill- treatment of some of the detainees in detention.

We are very closely monitoring the trial so that it meets fair trial standards. We are urging medical assistance to those who need it in detention. And we want all to be free from ill-treatment and torture.

Thank you.

QUESTION: You're calling now on foreign governments to step in and possibly prosecute the architects of torture that you're calling out today. The German government had an opportunity to pursue this several months ago, when lawyers there filed an international claim against Donald Rumsfeld and others. That case was thrown out.

What do you think are the chances of future cases actually being successful?

SCHULZ: Let me first clarify that our call is, first, for the United States to step up to its responsibilities and investigate these matters first. That's our wish. That is our primary wish.

And if that doesn't happen, then, indeed, we are calling upon foreign governments to take on their responsibility and to investigate the apparent architects of torture.

Now it is true that the German court threw out that case. And we recognize that there are obstacles in the way. I suspect that the Germans came under considerable pressure from the administration.

But I would make a couple comments and then invite Professor Aceves, if he would like to add anything, to do so.

Let's keep in mind that there are no statutes of limitations here. Let's keep in mind that these issues can be pursued years from now, not just today.

Let's also keep in mind that there is a growing body of understanding that universal jurisdiction is becoming a more and more accepted part of our international law regimen.

We have seen cases pursued in Belgium. We've seen the case pursued against Pinochet. And we believe that, whether or not this is an immediate reality or not, it certainly is something that needs to be taken seriously and will be taken more and more seriously in the future.

William?

ACEVES: I would add to that that the German decision not to proceed with that investigation was due, in part, on the expectation that the U.S. government would conduct proper investigations. So if, in fact, that is not the case, then we may have the opportunity for the German prosecutors to revisit the matter.

ACEVES: And as Dr. Schulz noted that many of these investigations require information that has yet to come forward. And perhaps in a few months or additional years you may have additional information coming to light which provides greater levels of evidence with respect to the possible culpability of U.S. military or political leaders.

QUESTION: As the world's major religions attempt to win the hearts and the minds of the world, what abuses and human rights violations are being done in the name of God or religion and what is being opposed in the name of God and religion?

I would particularly be interested in how you would make any comparisons with the two major religions of the world, Christianity and Islam.

Of course, the world does know the United States claims to be a nation that is under God and it is in God that we trust. But I know Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are nations that recently named Islam officially in their constitutional proceedings.

SCHULZ: Well, I am certainly not going to lodge blame for any of these violations on God, Allah, Jehovah or anyone else. That's not my job and that's certainly not Amnesty International's job.

And Amnesty International, just as we do not rank countries, certainly do not rank religions or deities in terms of their responsibility or lack thereof for human rights violations.

Now, the fact is that we know that human rights violations are committed in countries that are predominantly Christian, predominantly Muslin, predominantly Jewish and no doubt countries that are predominantly Buddhist, Confucian and anything else.

As far as Amnesty International is concerned, the issue is, "What is the violation?" We don't make speculation as to the cause of that violation in religious terms.

Certainly as a clergy person myself, I'm well aware that one can cite passages from any number of so-called holy books to justify virtually anything. And once we get into proof-texting of that nature we will never end, and this conference will go well beyond 11 o'clock, so we will avoid that.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if you communicated the contents of this report to the State Department and gotten a reaction or if you've had a reaction from any foreign government yet.

SCHULZ: We have not at the moment. This is the first release of this report and release of this statement.

I suspect that we will be hearing from the State Department one way or the other. We certainly have informed our counterparts in other Amnesty sections around the world of the nature of our statement.

QUESTION: Are all the other Amnesties around the world having a focus on the United States or is it simply Amnesty USA that's highlighting this aspect?

SCHULZ: I suspect that other Amnesty sections around the world will, indeed, address U.S. issues simply because they are so important and so pervasive. Whether or not each section is focusing explicitly on the United States I simply don't know.

The reality is, though, that all Amnesty sections affirm the importance of universal jurisdiction and so I suspect there is no section around the world that would disagree with our fundamental call and conviction here.

QUESTION: When it comes to the situation in the Sudan, how do you evaluate the fact that the United States government named genocide taking place there, yet doesn't seem to be acting in a way that shows that that's what they really are believing?

QUESTION: And I'm curious how you see the rest of the world responding to genocide. Does Amnesty International believe it is genocide going on there?

SCHULZ: Well, let me say that your fundamental question, I think, is a very, very good one. And Amnesty International, while it has not declared genocide to be taking place, has certainly declared that crimes against humanity, war crimes and all manner of other crimes are taking place there.

Amnesty International's position is consistent with the position of the U.N. commission of inquiry, which also did not call it genocide per se, largely because of the issue of whether or not intent could be established.

But the issue of whether it is genocide or not is not nearly as important as the issue of what we do about it. And your point, which is an important point, that the United States has called it genocide and yet has not appeared to allow that issue -- to promote that issue to a high enough level of importance in our own foreign policy to warrant even a significant public comment by the secretary of state in her public comments at her hearing of confirmation before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, indeed, represents a quandary and represents a puzzle.

Why is that? I suspect it is because the United States does not ultimately take whatever happens in Sudan as seriously as it takes places that it would see as more germane to our national interest. But that is very shortsighted.

And as someone who was in Sudan, in Darfur himself just a few months ago, I can say that growing instability in that part of the world is certainly something that will eventually redound against the United States national interest in any number of ways.

And that's why Amnesty International calls upon the United States to be far more serious about this issue. Certainly, we are grateful for the conversations currently under way in NATO about the possibility of NATO support of the African Union troops. We believe that there does need to be, indeed, far more support provided to the African Union troops to stop the slaughter that continues to go on.

And we commend the United States for abstaining on the referral by the U.N. Security Council of those names recommended by the U.N. commission of inquiry to be referred to the International Criminal Court for possible prosecution. We believe that those prosecutions should go forward, and, indeed, that the United States should do everything it can to be supportive of that particular process, if, indeed, it believes that this is a serious crime, which, of course, it is.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate a bit to the point of what point the United States crossed the threshold that elevated the country to the prominence that you're giving it? Was it a single event, a collection of certain events, or was it the totality of all the events over the past year?

SCHULZ: I'm not prepared to point to a particular event.

I think that what we know is that this administration has sought to undermine the fragile scaffolding of support for human rights at the international level at one point after another, and that the torture memos and the policy of torture that we've described flows from a fundamental lack of appreciation or respect for international human rights regimens and international human rights laws.

The attempts to undermine the International Criminal Court, for example, are simply one more example of a failure to appreciate what had previously been a bipartisan support for international law and for the scaffolding of support that undergirds all of human rights.

Whether Democrats or Republicans supported the International Criminal Court itself, they certainly did not want to weaken international human rights institutions per se. And that is something that this administration has done, and the decisions about torture, I think, flow very directly out of that.

QUESTION: What is Amnesty's reaction to the recent religious freedom agreement signed between the United States and the Vietnamese government?

QUESTION: And broader question: When you look at Southeast Asia do you see a general negative trend in terms of human rights there? Or how would you characterize the situation in Asia?

SCHULZ: Well, let me ask Mr. Kumar, our Asia specialist, to comment on that.

KUMAR: Thank you, Bill.

Generally, the trend is mixed. In Indonesia and Aceh province, we have seen increase of human rights abuses even after tsunami. The military there continues to persecute Acehnese there.

In terms of Vietnamese issue, I will say, it's a welcoming step. But we want implementation, and also we want political prisoners to be released in Vietnam.

As you're aware, the Vietnamese prime minister is going to be here next month. We want President Bush to take this as a special issue when he goes signing business deals with him.

QUESTION: What can Amnesty International do, or what is there -- have they taken any action about Charles Taylor in Nigeria?

From what I heard from the ambassador from Nigeria, they had no plans on turning Charles Taylor over to the Sierra Leone court.

SCHULZ: Amnesty International has long called for the extradition of Charles Taylor. We believe that Charles Taylor should be brought before the court in Sierra Leone. He has been indicted by that court, and he should stand before that court and face the charges against him.

And Amnesty has encouraged the United States government to do what it can to put pressure on the Nigerian government to, indeed, live up to its international obligations.

So, as someone who was once under threat of assassination by Mr. Taylor, I, personally, would be more than happy to see him face justice before the court. And that is Amnesty's position.

QUESTION: The U.N. is talking about reforming its human rights entire approach in the new panel. I'm wondering if you have a position on that. Do you think it will make a difference?

SCHULZ: Yes. Amnesty International certainly welcomes many of the proposals by the secretary general for the reform of the United Nations.

Amnesty, over the years, has recognized the fallibility of that institution. We have ourselves often been critical of the U.N. Human Rights Commission for failing to live up to what we regarded as its full obligations. We've issued reports in the past on some of the human rights violations committed by United Nations peacekeeping troops.

And so we welcome reform efforts at the United Nations.

I should say that we support those efforts within the context of support for the United Nations itself, however.

And therefore, in the case of Mr. Bolton's nomination, while Amnesty takes no position one way or the other on that nomination, we have raised very serious questions that we want to see put to Mr. Bolton and considered by those who will vote on his nomination, because we believe that Mr. Bolton has displayed exactly the kind of lack of fundamental support for international institutions that I referred to earlier here.

And that if one is to reform the United Nations, one has to affirm it in the first place. And that, indeed, is something that this administration, I think, has largely failed to do.

But as to reform itself, Amnesty welcomes many of these efforts.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) changing the membership?

SCHULZ: I don't know whether Amnesty has taken a specific stand on the particular proposals about the constitution of the Human Rights Commission.

Do you know?

I guess we have no position on that specific proposal. But in general, we certainly believe that the U.N. Human Rights Commission needs to be strengthened, that it has often had its hands tied in terms of its willingness to address fundamental issues of human rights. And that needs to change.

QUESTION: With the reactions around the world to the allegations about the desecration of the Koran, does Amnesty International take a position regarding the use or abuse of symbols or books that would be considered holy?

SCHULZ: Absolutely. Amnesty International opposes any wanton destruction of that nature. No holy book, no book that is of importance to a large group of people, should ever be treated disdainfully or with lack of respect.

And I will say, without commenting on the specific allegations reported in Newsweek, Amnesty International itself has, in the past, reported on allegations, reported on, in fact, findings -- research findings of a lack of respect being displayed towards the holy Koran at Guantanamo Bay.

So while I can't comment on the specific instance that Newsweek was reporting on, that action was certainly consistent with actions that we have documented in the past.

QUESTION: Is it your position that the condoning of torture that you allege here is an entirely new position for the United States government? Or is this more that the recent years have brought about a quantum leap in, as you say, the purveying and practicing of torture?

SCHULZ: Unfortunately, the use of torture by U.S. officials is certainly not new.

SCHULZ: I was reading Joseph Ellis's new biography of George Washington. And Washington himself engaged in human rights violations with his own troops, or what today we would consider human rights violations. And I'm sorry if I attack the father of our country in that respect, but it happens to be true.

United States troops have used torture. Certainly that was in use in the war in the Philippines in the turn of the 20th century. We know that torture was used in Central America during the Reagan era. Torture has, of course, been used by the United States before.

What is different here is that an explicit rationale for the support of torture was articulated by high administration officials. And the specific authorization by the secretary of defense, among others, of the use of specific torture techniques, that, I believe, is unprecedented or at least, certainly, it has never been revealed before to the public.

And that, I think, lifts this particular case to an entirely new level. It is one thing to have individuals practicing torture or committing human rights violations without any kind of rationale or support, much less command, from those who are their superiors. That is one thing that happens in virtually every country, I suspect, or has happened.

It is quite another thing for the highest officials in the land to authorize, rationalize and, indeed, potentially -- and this is what needs to be investigated -- potentially plot or conspire to allow this to happen, and, indeed, to therefore reasons why those who undertake it ought not to be subjected both to international and the U.S.'s own laws. That's a very different situation. That's the essence of the scandal here.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) in terms of addressing civil rights issues especially as it relates to their indigenous populations?

SCHULZ: Let me ask Eric Olson, our Amnesty director for the Americas, to give a brief summary of the situation in Latin America.

OLSON: You were asking specifically about indigenous people?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

OLSON: There have been some specific cases where there has been advance in guaranteeing the rights of indigenous people; I think mostly in particular in Brazil, where President Lula recognized the rights of indigenous people in certain areas to their traditional lands.

Unfortunately, that's more the exception than the rule in Latin America. The rights of indigenous people -- and not just indigenous people but the rights of Afro-Latino people -- are constantly under assault by governments, by militaries, by illegal armed groups.

And so that's the pervasive reality. Their rights to their cultures, their traditional lands, their own political organizations, unfortunately, are under assault in almost every country in Latin America.

QUESTION: On China, what are Amnesty's, sort of, policy recommendations in terms of how the U.S. should now approach China, given that there doesn't seem to be any, you know, substantive improvements in the human rights situation there over the last, you know, however many years, 10 years?

SCHULZ: First of all, let me say that your premise is indeed correct. There have not been significant improvements in China's human rights record despite much of the rhetoric that we hear often from the business community in this respect.

It is certainly true that at the very lowest levels there has been the introduction of a modest degree of democracy, in terms of multi-candidate elections. But beyond that, Amnesty continues to document very serious violations: as many as 3,400 executions, for example, more than all of the executions in the rest of the world.

Amnesty believes that the United States needs to continue to keep human rights at the forefront of its policies with China; that they ought not to be subsumed to other important issues. Certainly they ought not to be subsumed to economic issues. And even issues having to do with control of nuclear weapons in North Korea ought not to completely push off the table the importance of human rights violations.

SCHULZ: Now, of course there are limited ways in which the United States can impact China, and Amnesty International itself takes no position on issues such as economic sanctions.

But that this issue ought to be at the core of United States dialogue with China ought to go without saying. Because in the long run, if it isn't, the consequences for the United States and its own interests will be profound, as China becomes a growing military power and as its economic might spreads throughout the world.

QUESTION: There's been this talk of Arab spring of political reform popping up in a number of countries. The election in Iraq; you know it all.

How real do you think that is? And how much do you think you can attribute that to the military campaign in Iraq?

SCHULZ: Well, first of all, it would be difficult for me to project or predict how real it is. My prediction on projections are comparable to Calvin Coolidge's remark that when people are out of work unemployment results. So I am not going to project whether in the long run this is going to hold or not.

Certainly I will say that Amnesty International welcomes all of those efforts which are genuine in the Middle East, or anywhere else, to bring a greater degree of democratization to countries.

Now, clearly, in a place like Egypt, which has at least ostensibly introduced multi-party elections, Amnesty has serious questions about whether or not those who would wish to contest such an election will, in fact, have the opportunity to do so. And so there may be in some of these cases a good deal of smoke and mirrors going on.

It's also the case that other countries, like Saudi Arabia, remain mired in a very authoritarian system without much hint of new forms of democratization at all.

As to the extent to which the Iraq war was responsible, is responsible for these issues, I think again it is far too early to tell whether the full ramifications of the Iraq war in that respect will ultimately be positive or negative.

Obviously, the Iraqi government is having profound problems at the moment simply organizing itself, profound problems in finding ways to include the Sunnis in the government itself. And whether or not Iraq remains stable, I couldn't possibly tell you.

What we do know, of course, is that there are very serious human rights violations being committed by insurgents, and perhaps others in Iraq, and these are of profound concern to Amnesty International.

QUESTION: Since the war on terror began, has Amnesty International made any changes in policy justifying what may be done in attempting to prevent an act of terror?

And this past year, have governments increased or decreased using the war on terror as a rationale to violate human rights?

SCHULZ: Well, if by the first part of your question you mean, "Does Amnesty believe that violations of human rights in the interests of national security ought to be permitted?" clearly the answer to that is no. Amnesty believes that protection of human rights is one of the best ways to protect our security.

And though Amnesty has clearly condemned all terrorist acts, acts committed for political or religious purposes aimed at civilians are clearly in and of themselves human rights violations. Amnesty believes that there ought to be an international treaty that clearly defines terrorism. Amnesty believes the international community has a responsibility to oppose terrorism.

SCHULZ: But the way that that is done is very, very important. And the way that it has been done, trampling on civil rights, civil liberties and human rights around the world, we believe has created an atmosphere that leads to far greater danger than to safety.

Certainly whether or not the number of violations committed in the name of security are increasing or not is not something, in and of itself, that Amnesty tracks.

But we know very well -- take the case of Zimbabwe, for example, we know very well that many governments are utilizing the excuse of national security to crack down on people who are nonviolent and who are engaged in pursuing their democratic rights.

And certainly Zimbabwe is a good example of that. There are many other examples in Middle East and in Asia where countries are using these -- or governments are using these as a convenient excuse to oppose or repress their political opponents.

And certainly when those political opponents are not utilizing violence in any way, shape or form, that is something that Amnesty profoundly opposes and in many cases will declare those people who are subject to that kind of repression, prisoners of conscience or political prisoners.

Fine. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.


Related Press Report

Amnesty International Wants U.S. Officials Arrested and Investigated

By Bob Dart

05/26/05 Cox news
- WASHINGTON - Amnesty International USA urged foreign governments Wednesday to use international law to investigate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other alleged American "architects of torture" at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and other prisons where detainees suspected of ties to terrorist groups have been interrogated.

"If those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them," said William Shulz, executive director of the U.S. branch of the international human rights agency.

In its annual report on "The State of the World's Human Rights," Amnesty International said the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "has become the gulag of our times" and accused U.S. officials of flaunting international law in their treatment of detainees.

There is no statute of limitations on crimes such as torture, Shulz said.

So for years to come, the director warned, "the apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998."

Gen. Pinochet, a former dictator of Chile, was arrested on an international warrant issued by a Spanish judge while Pinochet was in England receiving medical treatment.

Charged with torturing Spanish citizens in Chile, he was held under house arrest in England for more than a year but eventually returned to his homeland and escaped an international trial.

If the United States "continues to shirk its responsibility" of investigating allegations of abuse to the top of the chain of command, Shulz said, foreign governments should uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved.

Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, called the charges "unsupported by the facts."

The well-publicized abuses of detainees have been a "stain on the image of the United States abroad," he conceded, but the exposures only reinforced the administration's commitment to human rights.

"We hold people accountable when there is abuse," he said.

Amnesty International's demand for international action came as a private activist group that spans the ideological spectrum called for President Bush and Congress to appoint an independent, bipartisan panel, modeled after the Sept. 11 commission, to investigate the "various allegations of abuse of terrorist suspects."

The group calling for appointment of such a commission ranged from former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene and former Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla., on the right to Thomas Pickering, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and Morton Halperin of the Center for American Progress on the left.

Pickering said his conversations during recent international travels confirmed the damage that prisoner abuse charges have done to the nation, disheartening our allies and giving ammunition to our enemies.

But others on the panel said they were not as concerned about foreign reaction as with domestic values.

"We should be opposed to this (torture) because of who we are -- not what they think," said Keene.

In issuing the Amnesty International report, Shulz specifically named those he regarded as potential "high-level torture architects."

In addition to Rumsfeld and Gonzales, they included former CIA Director George Tenet; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo; and Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy.

Shulz said the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment legally bind the countries that have signed them to exercise "universal jurisdiction" on people suspected of violations.

Certain crimes, including torture, amount to offenses against all of humanity so all countries have a responsibility to investigate and prosecute people responsible for such crimes, he said.

Copyright: Knight Ridder


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