US & Canada

Obama urged to investigate Bush torture claims

Former President George W Bush in Arlington, Texas Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Bush has said techniques he and his administration sanctioned saved lives

A campaign group has said the US president should order a criminal investigation into alleged torture sanctioned by the Bush administration.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says there is "overwhelming evidence" of torture ordered by George W Bush.

The former president has defended some of the techniques, saying they prevented attacks and saved lives.

The Obama administration has launched inquiries into deaths in CIA custody and other "unauthorised actions".

But HRW argues these inquiries will not cover the activities which were specifically authorised as legal by officials within the Bush administration.

The former president, vice-president, defence secretary and head of the CIA should all be investigated, the group says.

"There are solid grounds to investigate [George] Bush, [former vice-president Dick] Cheney, [former defence secretary Donald] Rumsfeld, and [former CIA director George] Tenet for authorising torture and war crimes," said Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch's executive director.

"President Obama has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime.

"His decision to end abusive interrogation practices will remain easily reversible unless the legal prohibition against torture is clearly re-established."

In its 107-page report, HRW claims there is substantial information warranting criminal investigations of Mr Bush and his senior officials for ordering practises such as waterboarding, the use of secret CIA prisons and the transfer of detainees to countries where they were tortured.

Mr Bush has said he followed the advice of his legal advisers, who told him, for example, that the use of waterboarding on several Guantanamo inmates was legal.

The failure to investigate officials undermines US efforts to press for accountability for human rights violations abroad in countries like Libya and Sri Lanka, the group argues.

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