The evidence showed that abusive
interrogation cannot be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers,
but was a conscious policy choice by senior U.S. government officials. The
policy has hampered Washington's ability to cajole or pressure other states into
respecting international law, said the 532-page volume's introductory essay.
"Fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause,"
said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "But using illegal
tactics against alleged terrorists is both wrong and counterproductive."
Roth said the illegal tactics were fueling terrorist
recruitment, discouraging public assistance of counterterrorism efforts and
creating a pool of unprosecutable detainees.
such as Britain and Canada compounded the lack of human rights leadership by
trying to undermine critical international protections. Britain sought to send
suspects to governments likely to torture them based on meaningless assurances
of good treatment. Canada sought to dilute a new treaty outlawing enforced
disappearances. The European Union continued to subordinate human rights in its
relationships with others deemed useful in fighting terrorism, such as Russia,
China and Saudi Arabia.
Many countries - Uzbekistan, Russia
and China among them - used the "war on terrorism" to attack their political
opponents, branding them as "Islamic terrorists."
Rights Watch documented many serious abuses outside the fight against terrorism.
In May, the government of Uzbekistan massacred hundreds of demonstrators in
Andijan, the Sudanese government consolidated "ethnic cleansing" in Darfur,
western Sudan, and persistent atrocities were reported in the Democratic
Republic of Congo and Chechnya. Severe repression continued in Burma, North
Korea, Turkmenistan, and Tibet and Xinjiang in China, while Syria and Vietnam
maintained tight restrictions on civil society and Zimbabwe conducted massive,
politically motivated forced evictions.
There were bright
spots in efforts to uphold human rights by the Western powers in Burma and North
Korea. Developing nations also played a positive role: India suspended most
military aid to Nepal after the king's coup, and the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations forced Burma to relinquish its 2006 chairmanship because of its
appalling human rights record. Mexico took the lead in convincing the United
Nations to maintain a special rapporteur on protecting human rights while
countering terrorism. Kyrgyzstan withstood intense pressure from Uzbekistan to
rescue all but four of 443 refugees from the Andijan massacre, and Romania gave
them temporary refuge.
The lack of leadership by Western
powers sometimes ceded the field to Russia and China, which built economic,
social and political alliances without regard to human rights.
In his introductory essay to the World Report, Roth writes
that it became clear in 2005 that U.S. mistreatment of detainees could not be
reduced to a failure of training, discipline or oversight, or reduced to "a few
bad apples," but reflected a deliberate policy choice embraced by the top
Evidence of that deliberate policy included the
threat by President George W. Bush to veto a bill opposing "cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment," Roth writes, and Vice President Dick Cheney's attempt to
exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the law. In addition, Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales claimed that the United States can mistreat detainees
so long as they are non-Americans held abroad, while CIA Director Porter Goss
asserted that "waterboarding," a torture method dating back to the Spanish
Inquisition, was simply a "professional interrogation technique."
"Responsibility for the use of torture and mistreatment can
no longer credibly be passed off to misadventures by low-ranking soldiers on the
nightshift," said Roth. "The Bush administration must appoint a special
prosecutor to examine these abuses, and Congress should set up an independent,
bipartisan panel to investigate."
The Human Rights Watch
World Report 2006 contains survey information on human rights developments in
more than 70 countries in 2005. In addition to the introductory essay on
torture, the volume contains two essays: "Private Companies and the Public
Interest: Why Corporations Should Welcome Global Human Rights Rules" and
"Preventing the Further Spread of HIV/AIDS: The Essential Role of Human Rights."