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US must prosecute CIA interrogation memo authors: UN torture investigator

[JURIST] UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official profile, DOC] said Friday that the US must prosecute Justice Department (DOJ) [official website] lawyers who drafted four recently released top secret memos [JURIST report], which outlined controversial CIA interrogation techniques and their legal rationale. During a news conference in Geneva, Nowak said the US is obligated [AP report] by the UN Convention Against Torture [text], which requires prosecution in all cases in which there is evidence of torture [JURIST news archive], because those who wrote the memos defined torture in a very limited way in order to justify its use. Nowak emphasized that this demonstrates complicity or participation in torture [DPA report] as stated in the convention. If the US does not prosecute the memo drafters, Nowak insisted that other countries party to the convention have a duty to do so under the concept of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder]. Additionally, Nowak said that while he trusted US President Barack Obama to conduct a full investigation, any investigation had to be independent and thorough and prosecutors would have to demonstrate that the memos were written with intent to encourage the use of torture.

Last week, Nowak criticized [JURIST report] Obama's decision [JURIST report] not to prosecute Bush-era CIA agents who allegedly used torture. Nowak said there was nonetheless still a possibility of trying agents in American courts, because Obama did not grant them amnesty. Obama's decision not to prosecute came on the same day as the release of the memos in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] lawsuit [materials] filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] during the Bush administration. Obama said that due to widespread speculation about the memos, it was in the best interest of the US to publicly acknowledge their existence.

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