20 years of torture in the United States – and it counts


(New York) – Twenty years after detention operations began at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2002, a new report assesses the enormous costs of illegal US transfers, secret detention and torture following the September 11, 2001 attacks The report, from the Costs of War Project at the Watson Institute at Brown University and Human Rights Watch, describes how these abuses violate the rights of victims and suspects, create a burden on U.S. taxpayers, and undermine efforts to combat it. terrorism around the world, ultimately endangering universal human rights. protections for all.

“Around the world, Guantánamo remains one of the most enduring symbols of the injustice, abuse and contempt for the rule of law that the United States unleashed in response to the September 11 attacks,” said Letta Tayler, Associate Director of Crisis and Conflict. at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. “The US government’s use of deeply flawed military commissions, along with other breaches of due process, has not only violated the rights of the men detained at Guantanamo. It also deprived survivors of the 9/11 attacks and the families of the dead of their right to justice. “

The report notes that:

  • The United States has held no one responsible for the CIA’s orchestrating a system of undisclosed “black sites” around the world in which it secretly detained at least 119 Muslim men and tortured at least 39.
  • The United States has largely resisted responsibility for abuses in its military prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq, where it has held thousands of Muslims, including several women and boys, and in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
  • The US military still detains 39 Muslim men at Guantanamo, 27 of them without criminal charge, and court proceedings are so flawed that none of the five 9/11 suspects have been brought to justice. The prisoners are among at least 780 foreign Muslim men and boys the United States has held at Guantanamo since January 11, 2002.
  • The United States has spent more than $ 5.48 trillion on the “war on terror,” including $ 540 million a year just to hold prisoners at Guantanamo.
  • As illegal detentions in the United States have gradually declined, civilian deaths and injuries in United States-led strikes in the “war on terror” have skyrocketed under Presidents Barack Obama. and Donald J. Trump, also without liability.

“Extraordinary renditions” (illegal transfers from one country to another), secret detentions and torture have undermined the international human rights system, said Tayler and his co-author, Elisa Epstein. By committing abuses with impunity, the United States has made it easier for countries like Russia, Egypt and China to criticize Washington and deflect international condemnation of their own human rights violations.

U.S. counterterrorism partners replicated Guantánamo’s model by detaining thousands of people in dire conditions in Iraq, northeastern Syria, Nigeria, Egypt and elsewhere for suspected terrorism offenses . Those detained, often without charge or trial, include members of civil society, relatives of suspects and child victims of armed groups.

The report also cites instances in which renditions and unlawful detentions and torture have undermined US security objectives. The Islamic State (ISIS) and other armed groups have used US abuses as a propaganda tool to attract recruits and bolster their narrative that Washington and its Western allies are waging a crusade against Muslims.

The authors call on the Biden administration to close Guantánamo prison and adopt important legal and policy reforms to end further abuses. The reforms are expected to include much greater transparency on crimes committed by US forces and accountability at the highest levels, as well as strong efforts to address religious, racial and ethnic prejudice in counterterrorism efforts.

“This report presents a comprehensive assessment of the many unreasonable costs of torture, unlawful detentions and renditions of Muslims in the United States over the past 20 years since September 11,” said Stephanie Savell, Co-Director of the Costs of War Project . “This is a moral failure of epic proportions, a stain on the country’s human rights record, a strategic blunder and a heinous perpetuation of Islamophobia and racism.

This report is the latest resource for the Costs of war project, hosted at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. The project was started by a group of academics and experts to document the costs of the post-September 11 wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.


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