Human Rights Leaders Call on Attorney General Holder to Make Clean Break From Abusive Practices, Release OPR Report

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Brenda Bowser Soder
202-370-3323,
bowsersoderb@humanrightsfirst.org

Human Rights Leaders Call on Attorney General Holder to Make Clean Break From Abusive Practices, Release OPR Report

WASHINGTON -  As Attorney General Eric Holder appears before the Senate Judiciary
Committee, 13 human rights organizations are urging him to make a clean
break from the abusive practices, excessive secrecy and faulty legal
reasoning that have marred the United States’ reputation as a country
that upholds the rule of law. In a letter to Mr. Holder, the
organizations called on the attorney general to shine new light on
those abuses by releasing the Office of Professional Responsibility’s
(OPR) report on its investigations into Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)
legal advice that authorized abusive interrogations during the
post-9/11 period.

The following groups joined Human Rights First in signing the letter
to Mr. Holder: the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty
International, USA, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Center for
Constitutional Rights, Center for the Study of Human Rights in the
Americas, Human Rights Watch, the International Center for Transitional
Justice, the International Justice Network, the National Religious
Campaign Against Torture, the Open Society Institute, Physicians for
Human Rights, and the Rutherford Institute.

“We welcomed your decision to release several OLC memoranda that
authorized the use of abusive and illegal interrogation techniques such
as waterboarding, forced nakedness, stress positions, and exposure to
frigid temperatures. But within the four corners of these legal
documents is only a small part of the picture,” the letter stated. “By
releasing the OPR report, you will demonstrate the administration’s
continuing commitment to transparency and openness.  You will also help
strengthen a proper understanding of the important role played by
government lawyers serving the United States.”

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder is appearing before Senate
Judiciary Committee members, many of whom have consistently pressed for
the report’s release and have been urged by human rights organizations
to do so again during this hearing. In the four years since
commencement of OPR’s investigation of the Bush Administration’s OLC, a
series of OLC memos released by the Bush and Obama Administrations have
shown that the office was a linchpin of the Bush Administration’s
strategy of creating faulty legal justifications to support a policy of
official cruelty and to circumvent the law on humane treatment. These
official OLC memos made unprecedented legal claims, ignored highly
relevant case law defining and prohibiting torture, and reached clearly
erroneous conclusions, including that the President is not necessarily
bound by statutes prohibiting torture.

“The American people have a right to know how the U.S. Justice
Department came to issue legal opinions approving acts of cruelty that
shocked the world, damaged U.S. moral authority and harmed efforts to
combat terrorism effectively. OPR began its review of this matter over
four years ago.  The completion of its final report is long overdue. 
Requests for release of the OPR report have been met with excessive
delay and insufficient explanations. We urge you to release the OPR
report now and send a clear message that transparency in government and
adherence to the law are core American values as well as key assets to
U.S. national security,” the letter concludes.

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Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York and Washington D.C. Human Rights First believes that building respect for human rights and the rule of law will help ensure the dignity to which every individual is entitled and will stem tyranny, extremism, intolerance, and violence.

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