Reprieve welcomes President Barack Obama’s executive orders on torture and “secret prisons”, but urges further vigilance and transparency.

January 22, 2009

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Reprieve welcomes the President’s executive order requiring all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while interrogating detainees. The manual rightly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse and water-boarding.

However, Reprieve is concerned by the administration’s plans to consider more “aggressive interrogation methods”, which we believe are inhuman and ineffective.

Faulty intelligence obtained by such methods led to major errors by the Bush administration, with tragic consequences, most clearly in the Iraq war.

We therefore call on Obama to explicitly outlaw “no-touch” techniques such as music torture, and thus to draw a clear line under the Bush administration’s failed intelligence strategy.

We further urge full transparency and accountability with regard to the torture administered during the Bush years, in order to learn from these mistakes.

Finally, we remind President Obama and world leaders of the torture victims trapped in Guantanamo, with no country of refuge confirmed. Reprieve client Binyam Mohamed – who suffered a razorblade to the penis – is on hunger strike and desperate for release.

We urge world leaders to end the suffering of torture victims like Binyam by offering them a place of refuge.


Reprieve applauds Obama’s order to shut down the CIA’s “secret prisons” around the world.

However, we are concerned that the CIA may retain the ability to pass ‘suspects’ to other agencies for detention and torture on the ground.

Reprieve urges President Obama to further ensure that the CIA – and US military – are not complicit in human rights violations by international third parties.

Reprieve emphasises that the US currently holds one hundred times the number of prisoners currently held Guantanamo, in both CIA and military prisons across the world. All these prisoners must be reunited with the rule of law.

“This is a dramatic, and welcome, break from the past seven years,” said Reprieve lawyer Cori Crider. “Reprieve has long said Guantánamo was just the tip of the iceberg, and we are hopeful that President Obama will dismantle the rest of these illegal facilities and prevent rendition to torture. At least eight prisoners died in Bagram, yet over six hundred prisoners remain there. CIA secret prisons—from the Dark Prison in Afghanistan to Szymany in Poland —concealed the repeated use of torture, both medieval and high-tech. The entire secret prison system should be consigned to the scrap heap of history.”

Reprieve is investigating CIA sponsored “black sites”, and secret prisons, across the world, with the aim of holding the US government and military to account.


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Notes for editors:

Reprieve is a legal action charity, founded by Clive Stafford Smith in 1999. Reprieve uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. We investigate, litigate and educate. Working on the frontline, we provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves, promoting the rule of law around the world, and securing each person’s right to a fair trial. In doing so, we save lives.

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