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20 Apr, 2009 09:18

UN top torture investigator lashes out at Obama

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak has said that it is illegal for Barack Obama’s administration not to prosecute CIA officers who carried out torture sanctioned by the Bush administration.

It follows the release a few weeks back of Bush-era memos showing the sanctioning of interrogation methods like simulated drowning, sleep deprivation and forcing prisoners into stress positions.

Nowak insists that the US must try those who had been carrying out harsh interrogation techniques. He says the US is among the countries who have signed the UN Convention Against Torture and every country that signs this international document has to abide by it. If not, this can be seen as a breach of international law which could have negative consequences for the already tarnished American image.

“The United States, like all other states that are part of the UN Convention Against Torture, is committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bringing all persons against whom there is sound evidence to court,” the expert told the Austrian daily Der Standard.

Now the UN torture investigator has said that the US should be committed to conducting criminal investigations of torture and to bring in all the evidence to court.

It is important, he says, that even though some officers claim they were simply carrying out orders, this should not release them from accountability.

Manfred Nowak has said that an independent investigation should be carried out and the victims should be compensated.

Whether or not these calls will be heard at the White House remains to be seen. Nowak now plans to travel to Washington for a range of meetings with American officials.

American President Barack Obama has said that those CIA officers who were simply carrying out orders of the Bush administration should not be prosecuted and added that nothing would be gained by spending time and energy laying blame for the past.

On the other hand, the media, Internet blogs and human rights organizations have been saying that Barack Obama, during his election campaign, promised transparency and accountability. He has shown transparency when he exposed the Bush memos to the public, but accountability is something the American public has yet to see.

Nowak is not the first to criticise Obama's decision to protect CIA interrogators. Earlier, different human rights groups have voiced their concerns over the decision, saying charges are necessary to prevent future abuses and hold people accountable.

Washington, however, is unlikely to face any legal sanctions for its apparent breach of international law, but “naming and shaming has its impact and usually governments try not to be criticized,” Nowak added.