According to human rights organizations, civil liberty groups, and international lawyers, disclosure of the records is critical for US government accountability. The concealed photographs were taken by US military service members and collected during investigations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some could be on par with, or worse than, those released from Abu Ghraib prison.
The White House has fought to keep these photographs suppressed, and even collaborated with Congress to change law to enable the concealment. They claim the release of records relating to torture and extrajudicial killings of prisoners since 2003 would endanger Americans. It is indeed yet another illegitimate attempt to give Washington sweeping power to suppress evidence of its own misconduct and act above international law.
The international civil society, however, needs to know what exactly happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, and/or what is still happening in America’s secret prisons and detention centers around the world. The photos are the best evidence and their disclosure would help the world better understand how the torture program has become a tool in the arsenal of US presidents.
The international community should turn its collective gaze back to the torture program and its horrifying details. Some of the released photos have already shed light on just how far the US government has descended away from morality.
It needs to be made clear that these were not acts conducted in the heat of the moment while under fire. These actions are unthinkable, inhuman, and in no way forgivable offenses. These are calculated actions condoned and directed by a systematic torture program in a controlled environment away from any fighting. These are the actions of sadistic cowards who are guilty of war crimes.
Waterboarding, sodomy (rectal rehydration), and many other forms of sexual assaults are humiliating and unforgivable. They are only designed to inflict physical and mental pain. Washington claims its criminal activities were conducted by the “best” in the service of some greater good; that they were “patriots” just doing what needed to be done. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Those tasked with committing these war crimes on behalf of the US government and the Pentagon are not heroes. They should be tried and held to account at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. People at the highest level of US government and the countries complicit in the torture program should never be allowed to escape justice either.
According to published reports, an estimated 100 prisons and 17 floating ships have been used to carry out the torture program in at least 28 countries. They include Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Poland, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom.
Under international law, these war criminals cannot go unpunished, not just because many of those “high-value targets” kidnapped, rounded up and tortured were innocent; but because these detention campaigns, criminal activities, and prison operations are still ongoing in some states that are parties to the ICC Rome Statute.
The Rome Statute renders these regimes and people at the highest level of US government subject to prosecution by the International Criminal Court on the grounds of territoriality of the offense.