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26 Apr, 2009 07:05

Torture memos released

Secret memos from the Bush Administration were released this week detailing the harsh interrogation methods used on detainees in the ‘War on Terror.'

But while the White House says it wants to learn the lessons and move on, many Democrats and human rights activists are calling for the people responsible to be punished.

'Torture memos' – that’s how the media is dubbing the documents describing the tactics used by CIA officers during the war on terror.

Human rights activists say declassifying the information is important, but that’s not all that should be done.

“It’s very important that those who were involved in criminality should face justice, so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again, but also to send a message to the world that the U.S. is prepared to live by the rule of law,” says Tom Porteous, Director at Human Rights Watch, London.

The Obama administration’s message is clear – look to the future.

“The president believes. as both of us have said, that the release of the memos is not a time for retribution, but to reflect on what happened, and that we’re all best suited to looking forward,” explains the White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs.

But key Democrats and Republicans are calling for the creation of an independent commission, where legal advisors, and possibly even George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice may be called to account.

“I advocate full evaluation, investigation, to find out who's responsible for us breaking international law, and defying what America stands for,” insists Ron Paul, a Republican Congressman.

The UK part

Last year, the UK government admitted allowing the use of British territory in the extraordinary rendition program, and if the US has no appetite for legal action, another possible route may be through Europe. Activists in Spain and Germany are already agitating for the prosecution of Bush administration officials.

Stephen Grey is a British journalist, and the author of the ‘Ghost plane: The true story of the CIA torture program’ book, who spent four years investigating the improper treatment of detainees by the US government.

Grey welcomes the declassification of information, like the so-called torture memos, but is anxious it doesn’t end there.

“President Obama would quite like to draw a line under all this, and I think you can’t end it until everything comes out. What I’m concerned about are the people, particularly those who turned out to be innocent. I don’t think secret detention by the CIA, and rendition to other countries where they carried out torture will be finished until we find out where all the individuals are who were sent out in this whole system,” Grey has said.

Britain’s own recent rendition scandal still echoes within the Houses of Parliament. And it is unclear whether the latest revelations from the US will further embarrass the British government. But the Obama administration’s new policy of openness may yet come back to haunt both the US and the UK.