Since its publication in October 2014, the United States Senate’s Torture Report has had a noticeable impact both domestically in the United States and on the international stage. The revelations surrounding enhanced interrogations techniques and detention practices in Afghanistan have been of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, and—most recently—to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice released a critical report on the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department that seems to validate concerns expressed by the U.N. Committee Against Torture back in November 2014. Ferguson was the site of significant unrest following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in September 2014 by a police officer. Brown’s parents testified before the UN’s Commission on Torture on the subject of abusive U.S. police practices.
International Criminal Court sets sights on U.S. Senate torture report
On March 5, 2015, the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said the U.S. Senate report on torture practices by the C.I.A. is being observed “very, very closely.”
The prosecutor said the evaluation is ongoing, and that no decision will be made until it is concluded. The “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the U.S. in Afghanistan on suspects after the 9/11 terror attacks could “amount to cruel treatment, torture or outrages upon personal dignity”, she said.
Although the U.S. is not party to the I.C.C. Statute, the Court can exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed in Afghanistan. Crimes committed in member countries can be probed, even if carried out by foreigners. Afghanistan ratified the Statute in 2003.
Department of Justice report validates some initial findings made in 2014 by U.N. Panel on torture
The Department of Justice of the United States has determined that the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department carried out discriminatory and racial acts against the cities’ black population. According to the March 4, 2015 report titled Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, the police department and city had an economic incentive to carry out illegal and unduly harsh treatment. This behavior was found to particularly affect black people.
At the heart of the scathing report is evidence that citations constituted the city’s second largest source of revenue. The report states this was the environment present during last year’s August killing of Afro-American teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a white Ferguson police officer.
The D.O.J. has cleared the officer involved of any wrongdoing.
This Report from the D.O.J. seems to validate part of the criticism levied at the United States and its police departments by the U.N. in 2014. Following testimony from Michael Brown’s parents and other events, the U.N. Committee Against Torture stated U.S. law enforcement agencies were guilty of police brutality and excessive law enforcement, and that it was unsure as to whether the U.S. is fully complying with a treaty related to torture. The Panel stated there is an existing lack of confidence from the part of the civilian population towards law enforcement agencies.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has also expressed concern over the investigation of the officer involved in the Michael Brown shooting.
For more information:
- The Ferguson Police Department: The Justice Department Report, Annotated (N.Y. Times)
- ICC studying CIA torture report ‘very, very closely’ (Middle EastEye)
- U.N. Panel Sharply Criticizes Police Brutality in U.S. (TIME)
- Ferguson Verdict: UN Human Rights Chief Slams ‘Disproportionate’ Deaths at Hands of Police (International Business Times)