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UN Human Rights Investigator in Afghanistan Ousted Under U.S. Pressure
We speak with Cherif Bassiouni, a top human rights investigator in Afghanistan who was recently forced out of the United Nations under pressure from the U.S. just days after he released a report criticizing the US for committing human rights abuses. He says, "The U.S. has done an enormous disservice to the cause of human rights in Afghanistan simply because they wanted somebody who was going to look the other way on what their practices were."
Today is the first anniversary of the publication of photos that exposed the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. 60 Minutes first broadcast the pictures that shocked the world: Images of Iraqis with bags over their heads, beaten, set upon by dogs and forced into sexually humiliating acts. US soldiers looking on and smiling. And the enduring photograph of a prisoner cloaked in black, standing on a box with wires attached to his outstretched arms.
Since then, it has become clear that the U.S. torture of prisoners in Iraq was part of a larger pattern of abuse that stretched from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay and beyond. The use of so-called "extraordinary rendition" sent detainees to foreign countries where the use of torture was widespread.
Now, one year after the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib became public, the scandal continues.
This past week, news emerged that the U.S. forced out a top human rights investigator at the United Nations just days after he released a report criticizing the US for committing human rights abuses in Afghanistan.
The Egyptian-born law professor Cherif Bassiouni had spent a year in Afghanistan interviewing Afghans, international agency staff and the Afghan Human Rights Commission. His official title was "independent expert on human rights in Afghanistan."
In his new report, Bassiouni accused US troops of breaking into homes, arbitrarily arresting residents and torturing detainees. He estimated that around 1,000 Afghans had been detained. Bassiouni also indicated that the US-led forces had committed "sexual abuse, beatings, torture and use of force resulting in death." He wrote, "When these forces directly engage in practices that violate... international human rights and international humanitarian law, they undermine the national project of establishing a legal basis for the use of force."
Last week, just days after Bassiouni released his report, the UN Human Rights Commission ended his mandate at a meeting in Geneva.
Cherif Bassiouni joins us on the line today from his home in Chicago.
* Cherif Bassiouni, the former United Nations human rights investigator in Afghanistan. He is a professor of law at DePaul University. He is the author of 27 books on a wide range of legal issues and president of the International Human Rights Law Institute.
Afghanistan: U.N. Rights Monitoring Still Needed
International Human Rights Law Institute
Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan, March 20