The Law School’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice has called on President Barack Obama to take immediate steps to establish a non-partisan, independent commission of inquiry to investigate abuses committed as part of the U.S. “War on Terror.” CHRGJ is part of a group of NGOs and leading government experts who joined together to issue a collective statement on February 19 calling for a commission to examine policies and actions related to the detention, treatment, and transfer of detainees after 9/11.
CHRGJ is the only member of the group to call for prosecutions of individuals responsible for the abuse of detainees.
“You actually could have a commission that looks into the wider policies and how they came about, what the impact was, and really gets to the truth on that side,” Margaret Satterthwaite, CHRGJ’s faculty director, said on Air America's The Ron Reagan Show. “Then you would also have prosecutions of individuals who really were responsible for setting up the torture policy and putting it into action.”
Satterthwaite talked about the case of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a citizen of Yemen represented by CHRGJ who claims he was illegally detained by the U.S. government from October 2003 until May 2005, tortured, and held in CIA-run "black sites." During that time, "he was never brought before a court, never brought before the Red Cross, never had any word from his family, a lawyer, or the outside world," she said.
Since Bashmilah's release in 2005, the U.S. government has never explained why he was detained. He has joined CHRGJ's call for a commission and prosecution of those responsible for detainee abuse.
Satterthwaite acknowledged that while the top priority of the government should be to protect the public, it must use legal means to do so.
"Attempting to arrest individuals, using extradition processes where possible, bringing them into the regular criminal law system, and then trying them with due process -- there is no reason to depart from that system," she said.
CHRGJ supports efforts to immediately begin investigations into criminal conduct along with other accountability mechanisms, including reparations for victims and other measures to restore justice. As the Obama administration deals with the legacy of the Bush administration, the center believes a commission alone is not enough. Criminal investigations and prosecution of secret detention, extraordinary rendition, and coercive interrogation practices are also necessary.