Despite repeated assertions by the Bush administration to the contrary, evidence is mounting that the United States government has tortured detainees in its war on terrorism, an international human rights lawyer said Monday in Buffalo.
Buffalo native Julia Hall is a counsel and senior researcher for the Europe/Central Asia Division at Human Rights Watch, an organization dedicated to protecting human rights. She spoke at a forum in the International Institute.
Citing media reports alleging abuse of detainees and assertions by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the United States doesn't condone or carry out torture, Hall asked: "Who to believe?"
"My concern is with evidence," said Hall, a graduate of the University at Buffalo's Law School. "The easiest way for me to make decisions about what's true and not true is to have access to, and evaluate, the evidence.
"There's mounting evidence -- some of it indisputable -- that, in fact, the United States government has engaged in practices that amount to torture."
Hall pointed to a Los Angeles Times article about a draft report by the United Nations that concludes the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay constitutes torture in some cases.
Then there are reports of detainees who disappear and of CIA interrogators using methods prohibited under international law.
Such treatment of prisoners has been a "boon for al-Qaida," she said, and incites other countries to do the same.
"It is for al-Qaida and other terrorists that the ends justify the means," Hall said. "The United States and other western governments should not endorse this logic."
Rice has said the United States doesn't and hasn't transported detainees to other countries where they would be subjected to torture and mistreatment, Hall noted but said she worked on two cases in which that happened.
In one case, she said, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent was taken into custody at a U.S. airport and sent to Syria.
"If Syria is such a bad actor -- and it is -- why would the Bush administration seize a Canadian citizen . . . and hand him over to the Syrians, who promptly tortured him?" Hall asked.
In the other case, the Swedish government expelled two men suspected of terrorist activity. It was later reported that they were handed over to CIA operatives at Sweden's Bromma Airport and transported to Egypt.
"The evidence is mounting," Hall concluded.