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HRW urges Holder to open criminal investigation into Bush-era interrogations

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] sent an open letter [text] Monday to US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] to "express [the organization's] strong support for opening a criminal investigation into abusive interrogation practices by the US government since the attacks of September 11, 2001." The letter appears to come in response to last week's Newsweek report [text; JURIST report] indicating that Holder was still considering appointing a prosecutor with "gravitas and grit" to investigate allegations of torture during the Bush administration. HRW's letter emphasized the need to fully investigate higher-level officials involved in policy-setting, saying "[a]ny investigation that failed to reach those at the center of the policy, while pinning responsibility on line officers, would lack credibility both domestically and internationally." Calls for an independent investigation of Bush administration policies have intensified in the last few months, since the Obama administration released four top secret memos [JURIST report] outlining the legal rationale behind controversial interrogation techniques.

In April, Democratic members of the US House Judiciary Committee sent Holder a letter urging him to appoint a special counsel [JURIST report] to investigate torture allegations made against Bush administration officials. Earlier that month, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official profile] reiterated his calls for a non-partisan truth commission [JURIST report] to investigate those responsible for authorizing certain interrogation techniques. Also in April, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence [official website] released a DOJ report [JURIST report] indicating that in 2002 former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice approved the use of waterboarding and other extreme interrogation techniques used by CIA agents against Guantanamo Bay detainees.

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