UN expert urges 'serious' US probe of torture
The UN expert of torture on Wednesday called on US President Barack Obama to hold a serious investigation into abuses allegedly committed under the previous US administration's "war on terror".
Juan Mendez, the UN special rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment, stressed that Washington had the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting abuse under its jurisdiction.
"I will continue to insist that, even though some meritorious initiatives have been taken by President Obama to reverse some of the practices of the past, one thing that has not happened is a serious investigation of what took place during the so-called 'war on terror'," he told journalists.
"I think I can join the many civil rights and civil society organisations in the United States that have been calling for that investigation to take place," added Mendez, who only took up the UN post last September.
Obama said Monday he would lift the two-year freeze on new controversial military trials for Guantanamo Bay terror suspects, despite a two-year long attempt to close down the facility.
The US president had immediately signed executive orders when he took office in 2009 to outlaw secret prisons for suspects seized in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to emphasise that torture was outlawed in armed conflicts.
But pressure abroad has increased since last November, after former US president George W. Bush wrote in his new memoir that he gave the go-ahead for CIA officers to waterboard self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during their interrogation.
Some human rights groups have vowed to pursue Bush wherever he travels, claiming that the former US president had cancelled a trip to Switzerland last month over fears that he could be probed for torture.
"I think the primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting human rights abuses of all kind, but especially torture, lies with the territorial state, in this case, the United States," said Mendez, in response to a question about such moves against Bush in Switzerland last month.
Mendez's predecessor as special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, was a vehement critic of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
© 2011 AFP