Human Rights First
APRIL 27, 2005
8:30 AM
CONTACT: Human Rights First  
Sean Crowley, 202-478-6128 or
David Danzig, 212-845-5252 or
One Year After the Abu Ghraib Torture Photos: U.S. Government Response 'Grossly Inadequate,' Rights Group Says; Architects of U.S. Torture Policy: Promoted, Not Punished

WASHINGTON -- April 27 -- On the eve of the anniversary of the disclosure of torture photos from Abu Ghraib, Human Rights First released a statement that called the U.S. government's response to torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody grossly inadequate. The full statement is at:

"Abu Ghraib was just the tip of the iceberg -- the torture problem is bigger and more systematic than most people realize," said Michael Posner, Executive Director of Human Rights First. "A year later, we see the full scope of the abuse. We have also seen that those in charge of detention and interrogation operations -- and policies -- when the torture at Abu Ghraib first became public have been promoted, and that the policies that led to these widespread illegal acts are still in place. It's time for Congress to step in and undertake a truly independent investigation."

The Human Rights First statement outlines that:

  • Torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody extend far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib;
  • The civilian and military leaders in charge of detention and interrogation operations a year ago have been promoted rather than punished;
  • The key policies that led to these widespread criminal acts are still in place.

In March 2005, Human Rights First, along with retired military leaders and the ACLU, filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld - the first federal lawsuit to name a top U.S. official in the torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight men who were subject to torture and abuse at the hands of U.S. forces under Secretary Rumsfeld's command. The parties are seeking a court order declaring that Secretary Rumsfeld's actions violated the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes and international law. For more information on the lawsuit, go to:


Deaths in Custody: 108 People Have Died in U.S. Custody, the U.S. Government Acknowledges

  • The U.S. government has acknowledged 28 confirmed or suspected homicides of detainees in U.S. custody. Only one of these homicides occurred at Abu Ghraib.
  • At least 45 detainees have died in U.S. custody since Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was informed of the abuses at Abu Ghraib on January 16, 2004.

Detentions Are On the Rise

The detainee population in Iraq has doubled in the past five months, rapidly approaching the level it was when the abuses documented in the Abu Ghraib photos occurred. More than 11,000 people are currently in U.S. detention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Architects of U.S. Interrogation Policy: Promoted, Not Punished

Despite evidence of pervasive abuse, and findings by the Army's own investigators of "systemic problems" and "leader responsibility" at high levels, most senior officials involved in U.S. detention and interrogation policy setting have not been punished - and many have even been promoted. See full statement for details about Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; Former White House Counsel, now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller; Jay S. Bybee; William J. Haynes, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast; and Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

Torture Policies Still In Place

The numbers alone make clear the role that policy decisions have played - and continue to play - in facilitating the torture and abuse of U.S.-held detainees. Beyond the numbers:

  • In an April 16, 2003 directive, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved for use at Guantanamo interrogation techniques including prolonged solitary confinement and "environmental manipulation." The April 2003 directive, authorizing treatment in violation of U.S. and international law, is still in effect.
  • The Administration ruled in 2002 that the Geneva Conventions do not generally apply in Afghanistan; that policy remains in place. In addition, there are at least 325 foreign fighters detained in Iraq to whom the Administration says the Geneva Conventions do not apply.
  • The Administration also takes the view that that the prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment does not apply to non-citizen prisoners the U.S. holds abroad. Attorney General Gonzales asserted incorrectly that "there is no legal obligation . . . on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas."

Full statement:

Information on Lawsuit Against Secretary Rumsfeld: