US: Government creating “climate of torture” 1


From Amnesty International

Amnesty International today made public a report detailing its concerns about torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners and detainees both in the US and in US detention sites around the world.

The report has already been sent to members of the UN Committee Against Torture, who will be examining the US compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 5 and 8 May in Geneva. The Convention against Torture prohibits the use of torture in all circumstances and requires states to take effective legal and other measures to prevent torture and to provide appropriate punishment for those who commit torture.

The US is reportedly sending a 30-strong delegation to Geneva to defend its record. In its written report to the Committee, the US government asserted its unequivocal opposition to the use or practice of torture under any circumstances — including war or public emergency.

“Although the US government continues to assert its condemnation of torture and ill-treatment, these statements contradict what is happening in practice,” said Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director Of Amnesty International USA. “The US government is not only failing to take steps to eradicate torture it is actually creating a climate in which torture and other ill-treatment can flourish — including by trying to narrow the definition of torture.”


The Amnesty International report describes how measures taken by the US government in response to widespread torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in US military custody in the context of the “war on terror” have been far from adequate. This is despite evidence that much of the ill-treatment stemmed directly from official policy and practice.

The report reviews several cases where detainees held in US custody in Afghanistan and Iraq have died under torture. To this day, no US agent has been prosecuted for “torture” or “war crimes”.

“The heaviest sentence imposed on anyone to date for a torture-related death while in US custody is five months — the same sentence that you might receive in the US for stealing a bicycle. In this case, the five-month sentence was for assaulting a 22-year-old taxi-driver who was hooded and chained to a ceiling while being kicked and beaten until he died,” said Curt Goering.

“While the government continues to try to claim that the abuse of detainees in US custody was mainly due to a few ‘aberrant’ soldiers, there is clear evidence to the contrary. Most of the torture and ill-treatment stemmed directly from officially sanctioned procedures and policies — including interrogation techniques approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,” said Javier Zuniga, Amnesty International’s Americas Programme Director.

The report also lists concerns surrounding violations of the Convention against Torture under US domestic law, including ill-treatment and excessive force by police, cruel use of electro-shock weapons, inhuman and degrading conditions of isolation in “super-max” security prisons and abuses against women in the prison system — including sexual abuse by male guards and shackling while pregnant and in labour.

The US last appeared before the Committee Against Torture in May 2000. Practices criticized by the Committee six years ago — such as the use of electro-shock weapons and excessively harsh conditions in “super-maximum” security prisons — have in some cases been exported for use by US forces abroad — serving as a model for the treatment of US detainees in the context of the “war on terror”.

“The US has long taken a selective approach to international standards, but in recent years, the US government has taken unprecedented steps to disregard its obligations under international treaties. This threatens to undermine the whole framework of international human rights law — including the consensus on the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Javier Zuniga.

Amnesty International called on the US to demonstrate its commitment to eradicating torture, by withdrawing the reservations it has entered to the Convention against Torture, including its “understanding” of Article 1 of the Convention, which could restrict the scope of the definition of torture by the US.

The organization also called on the US to clarify to the Committee in no uncertain terms that under its laws no one, including the President, has the right or authority to order the torture or ill-treatment of detainees under any circumstances whatsoever — and that anyone who does so, including the President, will have committed a crime.

Background

The Committee Against Torture is a 10-member body of independent experts established by the Convention against Torture to monitor the compliance of states with their obligations under the treaty. It meets twice a year and, among other tasks, reviews the periodic reports of states. At its forthcoming 36th session, which will take place from 1 to 19 May 2006, it will consider reports presented by Georgia, Guatemala, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Peru, Togo and the US. Amnesty International has provided written briefings to the Committee in respect of Georgia, Guatemala, Qatar, Togo and the US.

The second and third periodic reports of the US will be considered by the Human Rights Committee, which monitors states’ compliance under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, at its 87th session in July.

In total, 141 states have ratified the Convention against Torture.

For a full copy of the report, please see http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engamr510612006


One thought on “US: Government creating “climate of torture”

  • Richard II

    Torture of a different kind, but still torture:

    "Iraqi police 'killed 14-year-old boy for being homosexual'":
    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/a
    http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0505-06.h

    Excerpt:

    "Mr Hili, whose Abu Nawas group has close links with clandestine gay activists inside Iraq, said US coalition forces are unwilling to try and tackle the rising tide of homophobic attacks. 'They just don't want to upset the Iraqi government by bringing up the taboo of homosexuality even though homophobic murders have intensified,' he said."

    I gave some links earlier to Doug Ireland's site <a href="http://(http://direland.typepad.com/direland/),” target=”_blank”>(http://direland.typepad.com/direland/), the first person, I believe, to report on the killing of gay people in Iraq, and America's indifference to it:

    "The gay activist I spoke to in Baghdad, with practically tears in his voice, was begging the West to, 'Please, we need protection!' When gay activists have gone to the U.S. authorities in the Green Zone, I was told, 'We are laughed at, and they don't care.' They treat the gay Iraqis who are begging them for protection with contempt and derision, which is rather scandalous."

    "SHIA DEATH SQUADS TARGET IRAQI GAYS — U.S. Indifferent":
    http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2006/03/shia
    http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/

    "OCCUPIED IRAQ: BOYS FORCED BY GANGS INTO SEX WORK, U.S. SILENT":
    http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2005/08/iraq

    From the IRIN link in the article:

    "This increase [in commercial sex workers] is attributed to economic pressure faced by families countrywide and the presence of new prostitution rings that have sprung up since the invasion. With society in turmoil and a raft of other serious issues to address [such as how to take over Iraqi's economy for the benefit of U.S. corporations], child protection has not been uppermost in the priorities of the transitional government.

    "The gangs use money or threats to get teenage boys to work for them, officials said.

    "'Many of us are working under threat, but others are there because they don't know how to survive and found it as an easy way of getting money,' Feiraz said. 'Someone should help free us from these criminals.'

    "ECONOMIC PUSH TO PROSTITUTION

    "Rising unemployment, compounded by conflict, has led to the desperate search for money to survive, despite the physical, psychological and health dangers involved in commercial sex work, local officials say.

    "According to a survey by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation released in April, 48 percent of youths in the country are unemployed, most of them discouraged by poor salaries in those jobs that are available.

    "'We are a poor family and my husband cannot work because he has serious epilepsy,' Um Zacarias, a mother of two child sex workers, said. 'Three months ago, Abu Weled came to our house offering us money if we let our two teenage [aged 13 and 14] boys work with them.

    "'Thanks to him, today we have a good income. People may find it surprising, but at least we can eat now and I'm proud of them.'"

    "IMF measures wreak havoc on Iraqi people":
    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/feb2006/iraq-f2

    "IMF Occupies Iraq, Riots Follow":
    http://www.progressive.org/mag_wx010306

    While all this is going on, U.S. and British corporations are raking in billions. We can't have them prostituting themselves, now can we?

    IRAN HACKS WEB SITES TO BURY ANTI-GAY POGROM (Updated)
    http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2006/04/iran

    "SIGN ON TO OPPOSE WAR ON IRAN AND THEOCRATIC REPRESSION":
    http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2006/05/sign

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