Huffpost Politics
Julian Hattem Headshot

ACLU Criticizes Obama Torture-Prosecution Policy

Posted: Updated:

On the same day that President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, the nation's foremost civil liberties group criticized his administration's refusal to prosecute alleged war crimes perpetrated under the Bush administration.

In a conference call with reporters, representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union expressed frustration that the president has not fulfilled his pledge of accountability by allowing previous abuses of detainees to go unpunished.

"I think that there is an obvious tension between what the president is saying about the commitment we've got to human rights and the work we're doing inside the U.S.," said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project. "We're frustrated by the gap in the Obama administration's rhetoric on accountability and reality," he continued. "Thus far not only are we not seeing the accountability... we see the Obama administration actively obstructing accountability on every front."

The ACLU officials said government officials who authorized torture techniques breached international law. Under the United Nations' Convention Against Torture, all signatories are obligated to prosecute instances of torture.

"The Obama administration's record so far constitutes a violation of that treaty obligation," said Ben Wizner, an ACLU attorney.

In April the administration released memos detailing interrogation techniques which were issued from 2002 to 2005, a release the ACLU welcomed but claimed was a rare instance of the administration's fulfillment of its obligation to deliver justice. The group disparaged the administration's unwillingness to bring those interrogation policies under review before the Justice Department, or to swiftly allow victims of torture to present their cases in a court of law.

"In the last month of 2009 not a single torture victim has had his day in court, not a single court has ruled on the legality of the Bush administration's approach," said Wizner.

Last week, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief seeking to make an author of some of the "torture memos" immune from the actions committed as result of the memos. Said Wizner about the DoJ's act, "the effect of the Obama administration... is a sweeping immunity doctrine against perpetrators of torture."


CORRECTION: This story and its headline have been changed since it was originally published. ACLU officials did not question the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Obama.

Around the Web

Barack Obama releases Bush administration torture memos | World ...

Obama, Congress prepare to thwart ACLU suit over abuse photos ...

Detainee Torture Claims Can Be Suppressed, Federal Court Rues