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Obama not ruling out prosecution of Bush officials for human rights violations

[JURIST] US President-elect Barack Obama [transition website; JURIST news archive] said during an interview [ABC transcript] broadcast Sunday that he has not ruled out prosecuting officials for rights abuses committed under the Bush administration. Asked whether he would appoint a special prosecutor to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping, Obama said the matter is under consideration: “We're still evaluating how we're going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we're going to be looking at past practices and I don't believe that anybody is above the law.” Obama also criticized Vice President Dick Cheney [official profile] for his public defense of "extraordinary" interrogation methods [ABC video] used against terrorism suspects, including the controversial simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding [JURIST news archive]. “[F]rom my view, waterboarding is torture. I have said that under my administration we will not torture,” Obama stated.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International [advocacy website], have called [Amnesty report] for the prosecution of senior Bush administration officials for a series of abuses, ranging from the mishandling of the Iraqi war to the illegal detention of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo and secret prisons. Such calls gained traction in late December, when the Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] alleged [report] that top Bush officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official profile], “bore major responsibility” for the abuses committed by U.S. interrogators in military detention centers. Their bipartisan report explicitly rejected Bush administration claims that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe and stated that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive], “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Rumsfeld and other top officials.

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