Representatives from some of the world's most renowned proponents of torture have condemned the US for its brutality after the release of a five-year Senate investigation into the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects, with China, North Korea and Iran queuing up to criticise the US.
The scathing summary released yesterday detailed of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation program" instituted during the George W Bush administration. It involved shipping terrorism suspects to secret overseas prisons where they were subjected to torture including waterboarding, which resulted in at least one death and “a series of near drownings”.
Other findings included reports that inmates were rectally fed and watered, with food pureed and inserted in their anuses, and that interrogators threatened to rape detainees' family members.
"China has consistently opposed torture. We believe that the US side should reflect on this, correct its ways and earnestly respect and follow the rules of related international conventions,"China foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters. Human rights charities and NGOs have frequently cited China's own use of torture.
The country did not even wait until the report's publication to start turning the knife. China's state news agency Xinhua carried an editorial on Tuesday morning urging the US to clean up its act.
It said that "people rarely hear the US talking about its own problems" but were instead focused on abuses of human rights in China and elsewhere.
"Perhaps the US government should clean up its own backyard first and respect the rights of other countries to resolve their issues by themselves," the agency said, citing the examples of NSA surveillance and of the racially-charged deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers that sparked protests and rioting in New York, Ferguson and across the US.
China "welcomes friendly advice and suggestions" but not from countries with "double standards" when it comes to human rights, the editorial said, adding that the US needed to stop "wielding human rights issues as a political tool."
The International Society for Human Rights has said that almost every Chinese prisoner undergoes some form of physical abuse, from kicking and punching, to being placed in stress positions, to being held in restrictive shackles or being made to kneel on spiked objects.
North Korea, recently the subject of a United Nations report that accused it of crimes against humanity, torture and mass killings, said that the UN Security Council (UNSC) urgently needed to censure the US.
"Why the UNSC is turning its face from the inhuman torture practiced by the CIA over which the UN anti-torture committee expressed particular concern and which is dealt with in the 6,000 page-long report presented by the intelligence committee of the US Senate, and such despicable human rights abuses as white American policemen’s brutalities of shooting and strangling black men to death,” a verbose editorial on the KCNA state news agency website read on Tuesday afternoon, in response to renewed calls to bring the Pyongyang regime to the International Criminal Court.
“If the UNSC handles the ‘human rights issue’ in the DPRK [North Korea] while shutting its eyes to the serious human rights issue in the US, one of its permanent members, while failing to settle the pending and urgent issues directly linked with the world peace and security, it will prove itself its miserable position that it has turned into a tool for US arbitrary practices just as everybody can hear everywhere.”
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Iran, still one of the US's most vociferous opponents despite a relaxing of relations since the more moderate Hassan Rouhani took office, said the report was "pure charade".
An editorial in the FARS news agency, which has ties to the government, said: "At a time when former US president George W. Bush is chasing cows and having barbecue in his Texas ranch, and former UK prime minister Tony Blair is shining his Save the Children ‘Global Legacy Award’ and possibly preparing himself for a Noble [sic] Peace Prize, it is hard to take the release of a Senate report on torture seriously.
"Despite overwhelming evidence implicating numerous US administrations in the sanctioning of extreme war crimes during World War II and afterwards, neither presidents nor their men were ever put on trial. The impotent UN spared them all in a bargain with the devil - an arrangement that still exists today."
The editorial called the Bush administration "all war criminals, but never punished" and said that the report should "mean nothing to the international community".
"They do not mean justice for innocent victims and surely they don’t mean naming, shaming and holding perpetrators to account. It is virtually beyond dispute that they ARE the perpetrators!"
Iran's Supreme Leader, writing on what is widely believed to be his official Twitter account, sent a flurry of tweets on Wednesday morning:
Iran's IRNA news agency has also previously expressed a desire to see the UN take on the CIA. "As always, they are too politicized to expose the truth about detainee abuse – even though the torture program is still part of an endemic system of abuse within the US government," an editorial read.
Numerous human rights activists and former prisoners have described torture in Iran's own prisons. In 2004, Human Rights Watch described the effects of so-called "white torture" on some detainees, with one claiming "his cells had no windows, and the walls and his clothes were white. His meals consisted of white rice on white plates."
No high-profile Russian official has commented yet on the report, and the Kremlin-backed Russia Today has been surprisingly mute, publishing reports focussed on US reaction to the report.
But the state news agency Sputnik, previously Voice of Russia, said it was "not immediately clear whether anybody will be held accountable for the illegal practices." It called the torture "brutal and far worse than the agency presented to policy makers and the American public".