[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] urged the US [NYT op-ed] Wednesday to hold accountable those accused of committing torture under the Bush administration. Pillay welcomed the US as a new member of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] and lauded decisions by US President Barack Obama [official website] to ban torture and close CIA prisons [JURIST report] and to review detentions [JURIST report] at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], but said that the US should hold accountable anyone who committed human rights abuses:
Although much more needs to be done, President Obama's determination to resolve the untenable situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, ban C.I.A. prisons and implement the prohibition on torture in compliance with international standards is highly welcome. The U.S. should also shed light into the still opaque areas that surround capture, interrogation methods, rendition and detention conditions of those alleged to have been involved in terrorism, and ensure that perpetrators of torture and abuse are held to account.Pillay said the US can benefit the UNHRC if it supports international human-rights standards and said the US has the responsibility of approaching human rights in a way that sets an example for the rest of the world.
After announcing in April [JURIST report] that it would seek a seat on the UNHRC, the US was elected [JURIST report] to the 47-member council for the first time Tuesday. In anticipation of the election, the State Department [official website] released its set of human-rights commitments and pledges [text, PDF]. When the UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006, the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings due to a perceived anti-Israeli sentiment by the UNHRC. Last month, UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official profile, DOC] insisted that under international law the US must prosecute Department of Justice lawyers who drafted recently released memos [JURIST reports] detailing harsh interrogation techniques. Obama has said that he would not rule out the possibility of prosecuting [transcript; JURIST report] lawyers responsible for authoring the memos.