I almost let this one slip by me.
The United States said in a report on Friday it was abiding by global anti-torture rules and any abuses of detainees in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were not systemic but critics charged the report was a whitewash.
“The United States is well aware of allegations that detainees held in U.S. custody pursuant to the global war on terrorism have been subject to torture or other mistreatment,” said the 95-page report by the State Department, submitted to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, which is based in Geneva.
“When allegations of torture or other unlawful treatment arise, they are investigated, and if substantiated, prosecuted,” it said.
Jumana Musa, an advocacy director for the human rights group Amnesty International, said the report “denied or minimalized allegations against the United States.”
“We’ve seen examples of short punishments or administrative punishment for what amount to serious war crimes,” she said.
“This is an exculpatory document that hardly represents coming clean,” said John Sifton, a military affairs and counter-intelligence researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The report, which covers from Oct. 1999 to March 2005, deals with police brutality, prison conditions and other domestic issues. The United States ratified the U.N. treaty against torture in 1984 and issues reports every four years.
But the most keenly awaited segments were the two annexes, one dealing with captives taken by the U.S. military during the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the other on those detained in Iraq, including at Abu Ghraib.
U.S. investigators found 10 substantiated incidents at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some 520 detainees are held, the report said. In Afghanistan, investigations of 22 substantiated allegations of abuse of detainees led to 10 non-judicial punishments and two courts-martial of U.S. troops, it said.
“There have been nine deaths in Afghanistan, and the best they can do is two courts-martial?” said Sifton.
Summarizing nine different government investigative reports on Iraq or Abu Ghraib, the State Department report said: “none found a governmental policy directing, encouraging or condoning the abuses that occurred.”