Saturday, June 03, 2006  

Let's talk about...torture...

This is Anti-Torture Month

Timing is everything. Haditha is hitting the fan and bloggers and others are putting the spotlight on torture in hopes that people (especially the US) will wake up to both the fact that the military and others employ torture and that silence on the subject implies complicity.

For more on anti-torture sources, check out Torture Awareness.

Torture, unlike beauty, is not in the eyes of the beholder. It has, in fact, been defined, listed, and banned in a number of places.

One of the documents which makes the international position on torture quite clear is The Geneva Conventions of which the US is a signatory.

Contrary to what Alberto Gonzales wants you to think, the Geneva Conventions are binding on the US because of Article 6 in the Constitution that makes all treaties the US has ratified the law of the land. So, that makes Abu Ghraib a crime against the Consitution. Hmmmm.

Interestingly enough, the UN created a Convention Against Torture in 1985. Guess who signed but did not ratify until 1994? Nous? Mais oui! Article 6 of the US Consitution also makes this binding.

Gonzales felt the Convention Against Torture doesn't apply to US treatment of people overseas.

Which makes you wonder:

How long does it take to get really good at such a narrow reading of this Convention?
And does this mean, Gonzales could be persuaded that government-sponsored domestic torture could be possible under certain circumstances?
Get this man a pretzel!

UN Convention Against Torture:
(note:bold is my emphasis)
Part I
Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war , internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 3
1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

What is so unclear about this?

To put this in some recent perspective, here are some examples of what the Convention is designed to prevent:

Article 1:

from the testimony of "Salaam":
They tied me into a pose called the `Scorpion,' where they made me lie on my stomach and tied my hands to my feet behind me so my back was curved. They kept me like this for ten to fifteen hours at a time.

"One soldier kicked me in the jaw while I was lying down, and broke two of my teeth. After two days, I couldn't eat anything and they took me to an Iraqi doctor inside the prison. He treated me with injections and tablets. After fourteen days, my teeth were not improving so he removed them. My lips were badly swollen from being crushed during the kicking.

Article 2:

Marjorie Cohn questioning Janis Karpinski, January 21, 2006
MC: How high up do you think the orders for that torture went?
JK: I think that it’s was very likely or certainly possible that Secretary Rumsfeld, the Vice President, and under Secretary Cambone, Sanchez and all of them, knew about the harsher techniques because General Miller and General Sanchez would not have implemented a new set of techniques without the approval of the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense would not have authorized without the approval of the Vice President. And so it filtered down. And it never filtered down to me because I wasn’t responsible for interrogations. But ultimately they had the most convenient scapegoat and seven soldier scapegoats as a result of that process.

Article 3:
From Benyam Mohammed's diary. Mohammed was arrested in Karachi and flown to Morocco where:
They took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Maybe an inch. At first I just screamed ... I was just shocked, I wasn't expecting ... Then they cut my left chest. This time I didn't want to scream because I knew it was coming.

One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony. They must have done this 20 to 30 times, in maybe two hours. There was blood all over. "I told you I was going to teach you who's the man," [one] eventually said.

They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists. I asked for a doctor.

Doctor No 1 carried a briefcase. "You're all right, aren't you? But I'm going to say a prayer for you." Doctor No 2 gave me an Alka-Seltzer for the pain. I told him about my penis. "I need to see it. How did this happen?" I told him. He looked like it was just another patient. "Put this cream on it two times a day. Morning and night." He gave me some kind of antibiotic...I was in Morocco for 18 months. Once they began this, they would do it to me about once a month. One time I asked a guard: "What's the point of this? I've got nothing I can say to them. I've told them everything I possibly could."

"As far as I know, it's just to degrade you. So when you leave here, you'll have these scars and you'll never forget. So you'll always fear doing anything but what the US wants."

These are the kinds of things that the US government does in violation of its ratification of the Convention Against Torture.

Survivors International is one organization that helps torture survivors from around the world.

You can check them out here

Another is Survivors of Torture International which you can learn about here

Check out the bloggers against torture site for links to more information about torture and what you can do to help prevent it.

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