Rights Group Cites Rumsfeld and Tenet in Report on Abuse


New York Times

April 24, 2005

WASHINGTON, April 23 - A human rights group issued a report on Saturday calling for a special prosecutor to examine the conduct of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and the former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, in issues related to the abuse of detainees.

Drawing largely on news reports and publicly available military reviews, the group, Human Rights Watch, concluded that there was "overwhelming evidence that U.S. mistreatment and torture of Muslim prisoners took place not merely at Abu Ghraib, but at facilities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq as well as at Guantánamo and at 'secret locations' around the world in violation of the Geneva Convention and the laws against torture."

The report found no indication that Mr. Rumsfeld warned those under his command to halt abusive treatment of detainees and said that he should be investigated for abuses under a doctrine of "command responsibility." Mr. Rumsfeld has said he made it clear to subordinates that he did not condone mistreatment.

The report found that Mr. Tenet had been responsible for policies that sent detainees to countries where they were tortured, which made him potentially liable as an accomplice to torture. Mr. Tenet has not addressed the issue publicly, but C.I.A. officials have long said that Mr. Tenet insisted that agency personnel carefully follow the law.

A special prosecutor was needed to investigate these matters, the report said, because Alberto R. Gonzales, the attorney general, had a conflict of interest because he "was himself deeply involved in the policies leading to these alleged crimes."

The report said that of seven investigations by the Pentagon, none had critically examined the role of the civilian leaders with ultimate authority over detainee policy. Investigations into case-by-case abuses have largely focused on lower-level personnel. Bush administration officials have repeatedly said that the government's policies prohibit civilian and military personnel from engaging in torture and that anyone found to have used abusive procedures would be held accountable and would face possible prosecution.

So far, the government has shown no interest in an independent inquiry. Republicans in Congress have blocked requests by Democrats to examine allegations of detainee abuse. At the same time, the Justice Department has ignored requests to appoint a special prosecutor.

An Army investigation has cleared all but one of the five most senior Army officers who were responsible for detainee policies in Iraq, according to news reports on Saturday.

The Central Intelligence Agency has begun internal inquiries into specific instances of abuse by intelligence officers, but the report noted that none of those inquiries or their conclusions had been made public.

"This pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from the acts of individual soldiers who broke the rules," said a statement by Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch. "It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore or cast the rules aside."

Last week, the vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee, John D. Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, said that Congress had "largely ignored the issue" and offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that would require an inquiry into the treatment of detainees.