President condems the actions of the CIA, after the release of a damning report into the services use of torture, but will not be drawn on whether action should be taken against the service.
“In the aftermath of 9/11, in the midst of a national trauma and uncertainty about whether these attacks were going to repeat themselves …what’s clear is that the CIA set up something very fast without a lot of forethought,” the president told Telemundo.
“The lines of accountability that needed to be set up weren’t always in place and some of these techniques that were described were not only wrong but were counterproductive.”
One of Obama’s first actions on taking office was to end the CIA’s torture programme, euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation”, but there are still questions over the US and UK’s actions in Somalia.
The Convention lets no one off the hook – neither the torturers themselves, nor the policy-makers, nor the public officials who define the policy or give the orders. – Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
In Poland, former president Aleksander Kwasniewski acknowledged for the first time that he allowed the CIA to operate a secret interrogation centre in his country, but denied that he knew prisoners were being tortured there.
After years of blanket denials from Poland’s government, Kwasniewski admitted that he had agreed to let the intelligence service use a secret site, codenamed “Quartz”, near the village of Stare Kiejkuty in a forest in north-eastern Poland.
He authorised the site to be used to question “people who had expressed willingness to cooperate with the Americans,” he told a news conference in the Polish parliament.
Asked if he knew what was happening inside, he said: “About what the CIA was doing? No. Inside the site, no.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said there should be no impunity against torture.
The Convention against Torture prohibits torture and allows for “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever”, not even a state of war, as justification, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said in a statement issued in Geneva on the annual Human Rights Day.
“The Convention lets no one off the hook – neither the torturers themselves, nor the policy-makers, nor the public officials who define the policy or give the orders,” he said.
The pact has been ratified by 156 countries.
Two cases in which CIA interrogators threatened detainees with mock executions – a practice never authorised by Bush administration lawyers – are documented in the report. The report also shows that agents discussed the use of insects and mock burials on detainees.
One detainee died from suspected hypothermia after being held, chained to a concrete floor, the report said. And one CIA interrogator was found to have told a detainee that he would never go to court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you.”