The Department of Defense today disclosed nearly 200 previously unreleased photographs pertaining to torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners carried out by U.S. forces. Hundreds more photos and documents remain withheld. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of abuses at U.S. detention sites, including in Iraq and Afghanistan between the years of 2002 and 2006.
Despite an overwhelming amount of public evidence, to date, senior U.S. officials have escaped investigation or prosecution by U.S. authorities even when they have themselves disclosed information about their own or others’ alleged culpability for the use of torture. While there have been some courts-martial of members of the U.S. military for certain abuses, these have been directed largely at low-level soldiers, and the fact remains that there has been continuing impunity for higher level officials.
Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, issued the following statement:
“Today’s release illustrates just a small portion of the real-life horror story that was the U.S. government’s practice of torture. Prosecutors should review these and other documents for evidence of torture and other ill-treatment. These photos are not only reminders of torture committed by U.S. personnel, they may provide potential new evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
“Prosecutors should immediately reopen and expand investigations into torture and other human rights violations. The Justice Department has a history of ignoring new evidence of past crimes, including the full Senate torture report published last year. The military justice system lacks independence and cannot provide justice here.
“The torture perpetrated by the U.S. was not just the work of ‘a few bad apples’ – it was systemic and ordered by the highest levels of government. Senior U.S. government and military leaders and others who devised, authorized and ordered abusive and unlawful practices deployed by U.S. forces must be held accountable. There must be arrests and there must be prosecutions. The U.S. cannot – and, frankly, will not – be seen as a leader on human rights if it continues to turn a blind eye to its own abuses.
“Those who have suffered at the hands of U.S. personnel have had nowhere to turn to for truth or justice.”