[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday announced the launching of its Torture Database [materials; press release], a collection of more than 100,000 Bush-era documents recording “rendition, detention, and interrogation policies and practices.” The database was launched in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture [text], which the UN has designated as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In a statement [text], the ACLU noted the importance of the Convention and the database in US policy:
Ten years ago, our government violated both the Convention and our domestic laws when it made torture and abuse of U.S. prisoners abroad a prevalent American practice. … Today is International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which commemorates the anniversary of the day, twenty-five years ago, that the Convention Against Torture became a binding legal obligation for the countries that had ratified it. On this day, we call upon the government to end this disgraceful state of affairs. To enhance public access and ensure public memory, the ACLU is also launching the ACLU Torture Database, a searchable compilation of government records documenting America’s experiment with torture.
The database is composed of documents that the ACLU has obtained largely through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. The ACLU called on the federal government to end practices considered torture under the convention and to issue an official apology to victims.
The US has been criticized recently for its treatment of detainees. In March, the ACLU filed a petition against the US with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] on behalf of three Afghans and three Iraqis who were allegedly tortured while being detained by the American military [JURIST report] in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Open Society Institute of New York in March reported that the US has sent at least 11 detainees [JURIST report] to a facility in Afghanistan that has been shown to torture prisoners. Earlier that month, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez formally accused the US government [JURIST report] of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment toward Pfc. Bradly Manning [JURIST news archive], the US soldier held in solitary confinement for nearly a year based on his alleged involvement in WikiLeaks. A federal court in December dismissed a lawsuit [JURIST report] by a former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee alleging that he was subjected to torture, concluding that it did not have the power to review the interrogation practices.