The United Nations has said that officials who committed rights violations against terror suspects must be prosecuted. Several countries expressed outrage at a US Senate report on the CIA's counterterrorism program.
The UN's special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, said on Wednesday that senior US officials who authorized and tortured prisoners in consonance with former President George W. Bush's security policy after the September 11, 2001 attacks should be made accountable for committing human rights violations.
"The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy ... must be brought to justice and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes," he said, according to the Associated Press.
International law prohibits granting immunity to government officials who allow the use of torture, Emmerson said, referring to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects at secret overseas facilities.
The document, released on Tuesday claimed that the CIA's detention and interrogation program of al Qaeda suspects following the 9/11 attacks included harsh techniques such as waterboarding and "Russian roulette" to force detainees into admission.
'Gross violation of human rights'
The report sparked controversy all over the world, prompting US President Barack Obama to say that the CIA's rights violations "did significant damage to America's standing in the world."
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the CIA's activities as documented in the report, saying they amounted to a "gross violation of our liberal, democratic values" and that "what was then considered right and done in the fight against Islamic terrorism was unacceptable and a serious mistake."
In a statement on Wednesday, EU spokeswoman Catherine Ray also acknowledged that the report raised "serious questions about the violation of human rights by the US authorities," but that it was "a positive step in confronting publicly and critically the Central Intelligence Agency's detention and interrogation program."
Poland admits to hosting torture center
Although the EU's official statement did not comment on the CIA's overseas detention facilities, especially in EU countries, Poland's former President Aleksander Kwasniewski revealed on Wednesday that his country secretly hosted a CIA prison where al Qaeda suspects were tortured. Kwasniewski said that, as a member of NATO, Poland had enhanced intelligence cooperation with the United States after the 2001 September attacks, in which more than 2,000 people died.
Poland's former president said his country had allowed terror suspects on its soil under the condition that they be treated as prisoners of war.
Warsaw also put pressure on the US president in 2003 to end the brutal interrogations on its soil, but in July this year, Poland was slammed by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for allowing the torture of a Palestinian and a Saudi terror suspect within its territory before the two were sent to Guantanamo Bay. The ECJ concluded that Poland had cooperated in the CIA's program.
Polish prosecutors have been investigating the secret prison since 2008 and media reports suggest that the CIA had secret prisons in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Thailand. The Senate report also mentions that US officials detained 119 suspects in so-called CIA "black sites," but the names of the countries participating have not been mentioned.
mg/sb (AP, AFP, Reuters)