WASHINGTON - February 15 - Following the release of new photos and video images depicting severe abuse and torture of detainees in U.S. government custody, Amnesty International USA released the following statement from Executive Director William F. Schulz:
"The repulsive images released today give a clearer picture of the scope of abuses perpetrated at Abu Ghraib and raise the question of what other abuses occurred there and elsewhere when cameras weren't present. These releases reaffirm the need for a truly independent investigation that will look at all levels of the military chain of command, as well as involvement from other government agencies like the CIA and private military contractors who have been implicated in abuses. Despite all the revelations of abuse, only one senior officer has been reprimanded and no civilians who devised the torture policies have been held responsible. Americans expect those who break the law to be held accountable whether the violators wear uniforms and combat boots or suits and cowboy boots. Prosecutions of primarily lower-level military personnel create the impression that those on the front lines are the scapegoats for policy set at the top.
The Bush Administration established policies that created an environment that fostered abuse and even deaths in custody. Government investigations make it clear that these practices migrated from Afghanistan to Guantanamo to Iraq and likely secret detention sites. These images aren't just the antics of a few soldiers on the night shift. They are the direct result of a policy engineered by this administration. Given the administration's silence on so-called CIA "black-sites" and the exception President Bush created for himself when he signed the Anti-Torture Amendment, the administration's torture policy remains as murky today as when the original photos shocked the world.
The only way to cleanse the tarnished reputation of the United States is to establish an independent commission composed of credible experts with necessary power to investigate those involved at all levels of government. The findings of the non- partisan commission should assess accountability and responsibility of government officials, inform policies to stop current abuses and send the message that the U.S. government takes seriously its obligations and respects the rule of law."
Amnesty International USA today launched its new web movie, Connect the Dots - Extraordinary Rendition, a short flash video designed to raise the public's awareness about the U.S. government's continued outsourcing of torture. To view the flash video, visit http://www.amnestyusa.org.