A United States government representative conceded in front of a United Nations panel that her country indeed “crossed the line” while dealing with terrorism suspects following the Sept. 11 attacks.
However, despite taking full responsibility for torture and abuse, the American delegation refused to acknowledge the country’s long history of torture.
Ten independent experts from the U.N. anti-torture body grilled some 30 senior U.S. officials in Geneva, Switzerland, for the first time since President Barack Obama took office in 2008 and swore to put an end to a controversial post-9/11 torture program initiated by his predecessor George W. Bush.
The violations in question range from torture at CIA “black sites” to detention at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba including prisoner abuse, detention of illegal immigrants and police brutality, as highlighted by events in Ferguson, Missouri this summer.
“In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, we [the US] regrettably did not always live up to our own values, including those reflected in the [UN] Convention [Against Torture],” Mary McLeod, U.S. acting legal advisor from the Department of State, told the Committee Against Torture, a U.N. body that aims to prevent torture and inhuman treatment around the world.
“As President Obama has acknowledged, we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that,” she said.
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While owning up to torture post-Sept. 11 attacks, the American officials told the panel that the U.S. will abide by the U.N. Convention Against Torture, but certain things won’t fall under the jurisdiction of the treaty, such as military detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"It [the treaty] should apply wherever the U.S. has effective control, not merely where it has governmental authority," Laura Pitter, representing Human Rights Watch told press reporters, stressing the move "does little to allay concerns that the U.S. is looking for wiggle room in terms of how it applies its treaty obligations."
And it’s true. Simply admitting a mistake after the damage has been done is not enough. By refusing to accept conditions of the U.N. torture treaty to cover up past mistakes overseas, the U.S. is simply putting a dent to its political credibility – or what’s left of it.