Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), in the strongest possible terms, decries and condemns the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States on more than a hundred terrorist suspects after their detentions. We urge the US government to disclose the full report immediately and bring those officials involved to justice.
Thirteen years after the 9/11 attack on the United States by the terrorist group al-Qaeda, on 9 December 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States released a 500-page executive summary of the report on the assessment of the Detention and Interrogation Program and various torturous practices (which the U.S. called “enhanced interrogation techniques”) employed by the CIA on detainees between 2002 to 2007. The full report which totals more than 6700-page, remains classified. The report, supported with documents and photos, detailed numerous examples of inhumane interrogation practices by the CIA – water-boarding, rectal rehydration, detainees were slapped, slammed against walls, sleep deprivation for up to seven days, some were stuffed into coffin-sized boxes and death threats.
In response to the report, the CIA has maintained that the program was necessary in the global war on terror, and that “countless lives have been saved and [our] Homeland is more secure”. Ironically, the exhaustive Senate report concluded the program as ineffective, in some cases detrimental to national security and “extensive amounts of inaccurate and incomplete information” on the operation were presented to the White House and National Security Council. At least 26 of the total detainees held by the CIA were subsequently found to have been improperly detained.
Notwithstanding that, it is apparent from the executive summary that the CIA’s program is akin to criminal actions and severely violates the international law and human rights law guarding prevention of torture and arbitrary detention. The trials of the major war criminals in Nuremberg and Tokyo in the wake of the Second War World Two have clearly established the principle of individual criminal responsibility for violations of the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict including crimes against humanity. Acting under the order of States provides no immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture under the international law. Further, as a participant to the UN Convention against torture, the United States is legally obliged to prosecute those who devised, planned, authorised and executed the torturous crimes.
The names of U.S. allies had been redacted from the executive summary. However, Malaysia was named in having assisted the CIA in at least two cases in an earlier report titled “Globalising Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition” by the Open Society Justice Initiative, February 2013. The details of the extent of “contribution” by the Malaysian government remained unknown to the public.
In the fights against terrorism, it is a shame that the country leaders have turned to state terrorism in addressing the problem. To date, despite the skill and purported numerous successes of military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies, tragic and terrorist events continued to grow, in particularly the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The blanket expansion for the use of force and torturous practices have been proven to be unnecessary and ineffective as evidently illustrated in the U.S. Senate Committee’s report on the use of torture by CIA. To make matter worse, the absence of any oversight and transparency called for accusation of abuse of power and severely damaged the credibility and reputation of the authorities.
The practice of arbitrary detention, extraordinary rendition, torture, cruel and inhumane treatment and punishment are all clearly counter-productive to the civil liberties, fundamental freedoms and democracy, which the country leaders claimed to be defending. SUARAM opposes all forms of terrorism but we firmly believe that the fight against terrorism can only be won by winning the hearts and minds of the people and not by means of force and war. The world should and ought to rethink its strategy against terrorists.
SUARAM hereby calls for:
- The Washington administration to disclose the U.S. Senate Committee’s full report which totals at more than 6700-page.
- The Washington administration to fulfill its international and national obligations and to prosecute those who are responsible for the abuse of power, especially in the use of torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment on the detainees.
- Malaysian government to establish immediately an independent commission of inquiry to probe the involvement of Malaysian authorities in the rendition, detention and torture of alleged detainees in collaboration with the CIA in the global war on terror.
Yap Swee Seng