Before the U.S. government can move forward to a more credible counter-terrorism policy, it must acknowledge and take action to address its past abuses. ICTJ worked to highlight the importance of full accountability for serious human rights abuses of detainees by the United States.
After September 11, 2001, in the name of fighting a "global war on terror," the U.S. government authorized and carried out counter-terrorism policies which resulted in severe human rights abuses.
These included the systematic use of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, and secret and arbitrary detention, including “extraordinary rendition”.
The government used the politics of fear to forestall opposition against its counter-terrorism policies and relied on national security arguments to stop much of its wrongdoing from reaching the light of day.
Despite an emphatic rejection of the use of torture by President Barack Obama since his administration took office in January 2009, the government has declined to investigate or prosecute those most responsible for what were, in effect, criminal policies.
ICTJ launched the U.S. Accountability Project in 2008, aiming to bring its valuable experience in truth-seeking and accountability for serious human rights abuses to the U.S. context.
ICTJ formulated several policy briefs to inform the debate about accountability. These addressed the need to avoid a broad presidential pardon, for an independent investigation of the facts, prosecution of those most responsible for serious abuses, and redress for those whose rights were grossly violated.
ICTJ’s U.S. Accountability Project brought international law and experience to bear on the practical issues of how to address a legacy of abuse that, otherwise, will be with the United States for some time to come.