Overwhelming evidence of torture authorized by the Bush administration requires President Obama to order a criminal investigation, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Monday.
The report, "Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees," provides information justifying criminal investigations of Bush and senior administration officials -- including former Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and CIA Director George Tenet -- for ordering practices such as waterboarding, use of secret CIA prisons and transferring detainees to countries where they were tortured, Human Rights Watch said.
"There are solid grounds to investigate Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Tenet for authorizing torture and war crimes," HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said in a release. "President Obama has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime. His decision to end abusive interrogation practices will remain easily reversible unless the legal prohibition against torture is clearly re-established."
If the U.S. government doesn't pursue credible criminal investigations, other countries should prosecute U.S. officials involved in crimes against detainees under provisions of international law, Human Rights Watch said.
In August 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate detainee abuse but limited the probe to unauthorized acts, HRW said.
Among other things, Human Rights Watch recommended that victims of torture should receive fair and adequate compensation as required by the Convention against Torture.
It also recommended the establishment of an independent, non-partisan commission to examine actions of the executive branch, the CIA, the military and Congress, concerning the Bush administration policies and practices that led to the alleged detainee abuse and then make recommendations, Human Rights Watch said.
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