for immediate release
December 17, 2014
Contact: Hendrik Voss, SOA Watch National Organizer, 202-425-5128, firstname.lastname@example.org
Torture has a long History in U.S. Policy Lack of Prosecution of U.S. Officials Paved the Way for New Abuses
Following the release of the Senate report on state sponsored torture by the CIA, SOA Watch is calling for investigations, prosecutions and firings of U.S. officials involved in torture and human rights abuses in Latin America and beyond.
Washington, DC – Last week’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the use of torture by the CIA revealed nothing new. The use of “coercive techniques” that violate international conventions, domestic laws, and human rights has a long history in the U.S. military and predates 9/11 by decades. Unfortunately, the complete lack of U.S. accountability for its role in the international implementation of torture practices has a similarly long history.
For years, the U.S. Army trained Latin American soldiers in torture techniques and how to circumvent laws on due process, arrest and detention in standard lesson plans employed at the infamous School of the Americas, renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) in 2001.
On September 20, 1996, under intense public pressure, the Pentagon was forced to release seven Spanish-language training manuals that were used at the School of the Americas. They explicitly recommended abusive and unlawful interrogation techniques such as torture, extortion, blackmail and the targeting of civilian populations. A Washington Post article by Dana Priest first broke the story. Not a single School of the Americas official has ever been prosecuted for the use of the “torture manuals.” Their content was based on materials from CIA and Army manuals that date even further back to the 1950’s and 1960’s. In the early 1980s the CIA distributed training manuals of similarly disturbing content to the contras in Nicaragua. All of which outlines a history of systematic disregard of international law through the promotion of torture. More than a thousand copies of the booklets used that the School of the Americas were distributed for use in countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru, and at the School of the Americas between 1987 and 1991.
The release of these manuals, just like the release of the recent CIA torture report, proved what SOA Watch, thousands of Latin Americans and numerous human rights organizations had been saying for years: millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars have been spent to pay for the teaching of torture and repression. The consequences of these trainings for the proliferation and institutionalization of torture practices in the hemisphere have become clear in the publication of Brazil’s National Truth Commission report, released just one day after the CIA torture report. It specifically mentions the School of the Americas, which trained over 300 members of the Brazilian military, and how U.S. military officials spent years teaching torture techniques to Brazil’s military.
Another striking line of continuity and neglect of responsibility is exposed when the new report outlines the case of one senior CIA agent, put in charge of interrogating the most important prisoners of America’s secret detention program, who had previously been accused of abuses against captives during the agency’s covert operations in Latin America in the 1980s. Yet, the CIA did not hold this officer accountable, assumed institutional responsibility or fired him. Instead he was promoted to the position of chief of interrogations in 2002.
SOA Watch is an independent organization that seeks to close the SOA/WHINSEC, to end torture, and to change U.S. foreign policy through vigils and fasts, demonstrations and nonviolent protest, as well as media and legislative work. SOA Watch started an online pressure campaign directed at the US Congress and the White House to call for prosecutions of the US officials involved in torture and for the closing of the SOA/ WHINSEC.