US: New Attorney General raises concerns among human rights groups and legal experts
On 3 February the United States Senate voted 60-36 to confirm Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States. The new Attorney General has been embroiled in controversy over his role in developing policy which has effectively undermined the prohibition against torture. Gonzalez approved a Justice Department memo which defined torture narrowly so as to encompass only such acts causing pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death.” He has also stated that the president has absolute authority to decide in a time of war the definition and scope of applicability of fundamental human rights law, such as the prohibition against torture. Prominent NGOs and a number of leading opposition Senators spoke out forcefully against the confirmation of Gonzalez based on his position regarding torture and the rule of law.