HRW Spokesperson: ‘President Obama Is Treating Torture As A Policy Choice, Not A Crime’

Human Rights Watch released a report yesterday calling on foreign governments to prosecute President George W. Bush and other officials in his administration — including Vice President Cheney — for authorizing torture on suspected terrorists if the Obama administration fails to investigate. In an interview with France 24 today, the report’s author Reed Brody said Bush’s explaination that his lawyers said authorizing waterboarding was OK is “not a legal defense,” adding that according to his report, the Bush White House was actually complicit in the Justice Department’s authorizing torture:

BRODY: What we show in this report is that the justifications presented or prepared by the Justice Department were not arm’s length independent analyses. What we show in this report is that led by Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief lawyer, the administration actually went to the Justice Department and put pressure on the Justice Department. […] They were complicit. […] What we are saying is that there are grounds to believe that there was a conspiracy.

Brody also noted the importance of prosecuting torture. He said that while President Obama has rightly abandoned the Bush administration’s torture regime, he added that failure to prosecute it treats it as a policy choice that can be repeated, not a crime to be punished:

BRODY: President Obama is treating torture as a policy choice not as a crime. So, President Obama to his credit has stopped authorizing torture, has disbanded the program of secret prisons but those decisions are easily reversible and very fragile. It’s like a loaded gun that’s on the table: “I’m not going to do it but maybe the next guy is going to do it.”

Watch the France 24 interview:

The HRW also calls for an “independent, nonpartisan commission, along the lines of the 9–11 Commission” in order to “make recommendations to ensure that the systematic abuses of the Bush administration are not repeated.”


Earlier this year, Bush canceled a trip to Switzerland reportedly fearing that legal action would be taken against him for authorizing torture.