New York City—PEN American Center today called on the Obama administration to stop inhibiting investigations into the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, warning that impeding legal processes in the United States and other countries “weakens the ability of legal institutions [everywhere] to safeguard and enforce the rule of law.”

In a letter to the White House signed by PEN American Center President Peter Godwin and former Presidents Kwame Anthony Appiah, Francine Prose, Ron Chernow, and Salman Rushdie, the writers organization praises Mr. Obama for signing executive orders early in his first term ending detention and interrogation practices that violated the Convention Against Torture, but notes that the Convention and related U.S. laws also require that all allegations of torture be investigated and that victims of abuse must receive restitution. Reviewing the administration’s “troubling” first-term record in addressing torture allegations, PEN decries “a pattern of not cooperating with, and at times actively obstructing” legal proceedings in the U.S. and abroad. Because of that obstruction, PEN writes, “not a single case relating to the abuse of detainees has come to trial in the United States,” and “the United States has yet to compensate a single victim of the post-9/11 rendition, detention, and interrogation program.”

PEN voices particular concern about U.S. interference with investigations that have been launched by close democratic allies including the United Kingdom and Germany, and its failure to respond to requests for cooperation by investigators in Poland and by the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. “That the United States has thus far failed in its obligations under the law to reckon with the mistreatment of detainees in its custody is troubling enough,” PEN writes. “That our government has inhibited efforts by other governments and international legal institutions to fulfill their own obligations under the Convention to examine their complicity with U.S.-led violations is even more disturbing.”

Urging the administration to “steer a different course,” the organization argues that cooperating in torture inquiries is not only an obligation under domestic laws and international treaties, but also a means of ensuring the rule of law around the world. “In a world where nations are struggling to establish structures to protect fundamental rights and dismantle tyranny, adhering to these principles at home and promoting them around the world is not only a legal and moral matter, but also a matter of national security,” the letter concludes.

PEN American Center is the largest of the 144 centers of PEN International, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. The Freedom to Write Program of PEN American Center works to protect the freedom of the written word wherever it is imperiled. It defends writers and journalists from all over the world who are imprisoned, threatened, persecuted, or attacked in the course of carrying out their profession. For more information on PEN’s work, please visit

For more information contact:     
Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105, lsiems [at]