August 25, 2009 / 4:48 PM / 11 years ago

No immunity in any CIA abuse cases-UN rights chief

* U.N. rights boss backs U.S. probe into alleged CIA abuses

* Navi Pillay says no immunity from prosecution for torture

* Next step involves criminal liability, she says

(Corrects quote in 7th paragraph to ‘safe from outside scrutiny’ not ‘territory’)

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Tuesday there should be no immunity from prosecution for torture of terror suspects in a U.S. probe of alleged CIA prisoner abuse cases.

The next step would involve criminal liability for anyone who broke the law, Navi Pillay said in a statement calling for greater transparency about "secret places of detention and what went on in them".

"I hope there is a swift examination of the various allegations of abuse made by former and current detainees in Guantanamo and other U.S.-run prisoners and if they are verified, that the next steps will involve accountability for anyone who has violated the law," she said.

On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder named a special prosecutor to probe CIA prisoner abuse cases. [ID:nN24142323]

The move came after the Justice Department’s ethics watchdog recommended considering prosecution of Central Intelligence Agency employees or contractors for harsh interrogations in Iraq and Afghanistan that went beyond approved limits.

Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge, said that the use of secret places of detention must be curbed and she called for the release of the names of detainees currently being held there.

"Secrecy has been a major part of the problem with this type of detention regime," she said. "When guards and interrogators think they are safe from outside scrutiny, and legal safeguards are circumvented, laws become all too easy to ignore."

Former officials of the George W. Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney, have denied that torture was used and defended their interrogation practices as legal.

Pillay reiterated her support for U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment to close the U.S. detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by 2010.

She also urged his administration to urgently review the status of detainees at the Bagram facility in Afghanistan.

She welcomed the recent release from Guantanamo of an Afghan youth, Mohammed Jawad, saying that the U.S. justice system had "finally delivered justice".

Jawad, accused of war crimes for throwing a grenade that wounded two U.S. soldiers in 2002, was one of the youngest detainees to be held in Guantanamo. In July, a U.S. judge threw out his confession because it had been obtained through abuse.

He said on Tuesday after his return home that he had been abused and humiliated during six years of custody. [nISL399803]

His lawyers argue that he was about 12 when he was arrested in 2002 but the Pentagon disputes that and has said bone scans indicated he had turned 18 when he was sent to Guantanamo.

"In Jawad’s case and those of other people held in detention for unacceptably long periods, without any charges being proven, or who were tortured or otherwise treated unlawfully, compensation and other remedies are essential," Pillay said. (Editing by Louise Ireland)

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