Jamil Dakwar
Director, ACLU Human Rights Program

Katherine Gallagher
Senior Staff Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights

Nikki Reisch
Legal Director, CHRGJ, NYU School of Law

Torture is a crime under US and international law. The 2014 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program found that the CIA and other US government agents engaged in torture post-9/11, violating the rights of countless individuals and harming the country’s public standing. Nonetheless, few have been held to account for US torture.

President Trump’s recent nomination of Gina Haspel to succeed Mike Pompeo as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency underscores the continued need to reckon with the crimes of the past, both to hold accountable those responsible for their perpetration and to prevent their recurrence. Haspel is reported to have played a role in overseeing the torture of detainees held in overseas black sites under the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, and in destroying the video evidence of those abuses. With her confirmation hearing set for later this month, many have cautioned the Senate against handing Haspel control of the CIA.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is poised to authorize a formal investigation into possible international crimes committed by US actors, among others, in connection with the conflict in Afghanistan. To date, no high-level officials in the United States have been prosecuted for torture or other war crimes and crimes against humanity committed as part of the so-called “war on terror” post-9/11. If it proceeds, the ICC investigation could change that, but many in the Trump administration, including his new national security advisor, John Bolton, are fierce opponents of the ICC.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have been on the front lines of this fight for accountability. Through litigation in US and foreign courts, public advocacy, and efforts to expose the roles of companies, health professionals, and lawyers who aided and abetted torture, CCR, the ACLU, and partners—including human rights law clinics such as NYU’s Global Justice Clinic—have pursued truth-telling, justice for victims of torture, and guarantees of non-recurrence. Speakers will identify progress made, lessons learned, and address current prospects for accountability.

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