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.