Waterboarding is torture, declares Obama’s top lawyer nominee

January 16th, 2009 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Jan 16 (DPA) President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to head the Justice Department told the Senate during his confirmation hearing that he regards waterboarding as torture.The comments Thursday by Eric Holder, the nominee to become the next attorney general, are a clear break from the Bush administration, which maintains it did not condone torture but has refused to publicly state whether waterboarding falls into the category.

Holder’s predecessors, including current Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in past appearances before Senate Judiciary Committee dodged questions about whether waterboarding amounts to torture and about the use of the technique on terrorist suspects.

“If you look at the history of the use of that technique used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes. We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam,” Holder said. “Waterboarding is torture.”

Obama has also said he considered the technique that is used during interrogations to simulate drowning to be torture.

The CIA has acknowledged that it used waterboarding on three alleged terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Holder will inherit a Justice Department that had been under heavy criticism during the Bush years for cowering to the demands of the White House by endorsing questionable interrogation methods and allowing the government to run a secret domestic wiretapping programme to monitor communications involving a suspected terrorist.

“I intend to lead an agency that is strong, independent, and worthy of the name the Department of Justice,” Holder said.

Holder pledged to move quickly to review the cases of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to keep in line with Obama’s plans to close the prison soon after taking office.

Obama reportedly plans to order the prison closed during his first full day in office on Wednesday, but has cautioned the process could take some time.

Obama will have to decide whether to bring suspects facing charges to the United States for trials in federal courts, a move that would abandon the Bush administration’s controversial military tribunals.

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