UN Special Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak [official website] called Saturday for the Obama administration to launch an inquiry into the role of the US in human rights violations allegedly committed in Iraq [JURIST news archive]. Nowak's comments follow the release of government information on WikiLeaks [website] that included thousands of previously classified documents. Many of the documents purportedly illustrate instances of abuse, torture and murder carried out by US and Iraqi forces. He stated that the US is party to UN human rights treaties that compel the investigation of such allegations and the criminalization of any form of torture. He also claimed that the incidents documented in the release may constitute violations [Guardian report] of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [texts and materials]. In addition to abuses allegedly committed by coalition forces, Nowak stressed that the US must investigate instances where transferring detainees into the custody of other countries exposed them to an increased risk of facing torture [JURIST news archive]. Absent a full investigation, Nowak claims that the US would be in breach of its international obligations.
Last month, Nowak's predecessor called for a similar investigation regarding an additional WikiLeaks release [JURIST reports]. The request involved war crimes allegedly committed by Taliban [CFR backgrounder], US and British forces in Afghanistan. Unlike the US, Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute [text, PDF], giving the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] jurisdiction over war crimes committed in Afghan territory. Earlier this week, Chairperson of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) [official website] Claudio Grossman [official profile] urged nations to "reconnect with the values" of the Convention Against Torture and increase efforts to combat torture [JURIST report]. Grossman stated that the need for heightened measures is particularly important in emergency situations where interrogators have little time to gain information from captives. The UN claimed that reports of rights abuse were found worldwide and that countries have grown increasingly apathetic to the use of torture as an interrogation technique.