Recent reports indicate that at least some of the evidence Secretary Powell intends to present was derived from interrogations of detainees held by the United States and its allies in the war on terrorism. A December 26 article in the Washington Post quoted unnamed officials of the Bush administration suggesting that al-Qaida suspects have been tortured or mistreated in U.S. custody in Afghanistan, and that others have been rendered to countries where the United States knew they would likely be tortured. Since the publication of that article, no U.S. official has disavowed its assertions or announced any corrective measures.
In a letter to Secretary Powell, Human Rights Watch asked him to declare that any U.S. official guilty of such practices will be held accountable, that the United States has no interest in intelligence obtained through torture and other internationally condemned techniques, and that Washington will not turn over detainees to countries where they are likely to receive such treatment.
"In his State of the Union address, President Bush said the Iraqi government is 'evil' because it uses torture," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "But torture is evil no matter who is using it. Secretary Powell should not lose this chance to explicitly renounce the use of torture by the U.S. government and its allies."
The letter said that whatever the truth of the allegations reported by the Washington Post, much of the world now believes the United States is torturing or severely mistreating detainees.
"In our work around the world, Human Rights Watch has encountered many government officials and ordinary citizens who are now convinced that the United States is employing a method widely condemned as illegal, immoral, and utterly unreliable for obtaining truthful information from detainees," said the letter, which is addressed to Secretary Powell and signed by Mr. Roth. "Until this perception is changed, your presentation to the Security Council - to the extent it relies on detainee interrogations - will not inspire the confidence and trust you are seeking."
A copy of the letter can be found at http://hrw.org/press/2003/02/powell-ltr020303.htm