Washington – The Obama administration is falling short of U.S. international obligations by failing to launch a criminal investigation of former President George W. Bush and his top aides in connection with the torture of terror-war detainees, Human Rights Watch said.
HRW demanded a criminal probe in a 107-page report, "Getting Away with Torture: The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees."
The document points to "substantial information warranting criminal investigations" of Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and CIA Director George Tenet for authorizing waterboarding, the use of secret CIA prisons and the rendition of detainees to countries where they were tortured.
President Barack Obama's administration "has failed to meet U.S. obligations under the Convention against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees," HRW said.
"There are solid grounds to investigate Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Tenet for authorizing torture and war crimes," HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said.
"President Obama has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime," Roth added. "His decision to end abusive interrogation practices will remain easily reversible unless the legal prohibition against torture is clearly reestablished."
HRW noted that the probe announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in August 2009 is limited to acts that weren't authorized by the Bush administration, ignoring approved actions such as waterboarding and extraordinary rendition.
"The U.S. government's pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from the acts of individuals who broke the rules," according to Roth. "It resulted from decisions made by senior US officials to bend, ignore, or cast the rules aside."
Besides criminal investigations, HRW wants to see the creation of an independent, nonpartisan commission to examine the entire issue of treatment of detainees.