Wednesday, 8 April 2009

The ICRC report on torture of detainees.

Damning. The methods used to torture the 14 detainees identified include:

1.3.1 Suffocation by water
1.3.2 Prolonged standing
1.3.3 Beatings by use of a collar
1.3.4 Beating and kicking
1.3.5 Confinement in a box
1.3.6 Prolonged nudity
1.3.7 Sleep deprivation and the use of loud music
1.3.8 Exposure to cold temperature/water
1.3.9 Prolonged use of handcuffs and shackles
1.3.10 Threats
1.3.11 Deprivation/restricted provision of solid food

Note that this is not an out-of-the-blue report by a random international pressure group, but a report from one of the world's most respected organisations which was intended to remain secret. It also comes to us supported by the testimony of interrogators, US JAG officers, and the detainees themselves.

Many will be tempted to say that these are not harsh measures, and that the people who were subjected to them deserved everything they got. However, some of those subjected to this treatment have subsequently be released without charge, and the toll which even the mildest of these treatments used in combination over a period of years would take on the human body and psyche is too easy to imagine. That no evidence has ever come forward of useful intelligence ever having been obtained from this treatment goes without saying.


Mark Anthony Jones said...

FOARP - the findings of this report certainly are very disturbing, as you say.

It is well documented that torture is also a widespread problem in ordinary domestic prisons that operate within US national borders - not only in military-run prisons like the one in Guantanamo Bay. See for example: Deborah Davies, "Torture Inc. America's Brutal Prisons", Centre for Research on Globalisation. Also, see Julian Borger, "US prisons 'use electric shock belts for torture'", The Guardian, June 9, 1999. Also: Human Rights Watch, "World Report", 1993 and Human Rights Watch, "Locked Away: Immigration Detainees in Jails in the United States", September 1998. Also see Dan Frosch, "Detention Center Blues," In These Times, June 14, 2004.

This makes me wonder why it is that you live in such "fear of a red planet." Torture is a problem in capitalist democracies (particularly in low and lower-middle countries like India, Sri Lanka, etc), just as it is in mixed economies under authoritarian one-party rule.

Let us take China for example - a lower-middle income country governed under an authoritarian one-party system. Political dissidents, religious movements like the Falun Gong, labour activists and Tibetan and Uighur separatists, all pose threats to China’s social and economic stability, and thus the government, as Randall Peerenboom appreciates, "must proceed with caution given the high potential for, and horrific consequences of, social chaos." Most Chinese are in fact prepared to accept the need to sacrifice some human rights in order to safeguard other, more important ones. More pragmatic than dogmatic, there is an understanding, widely held, that sometimes a right may have to be sacrificed in the short term "in order to secure more of that right in the long term." But this way of thinking is not unique to China, or to East Asia in general, as the U.S. government’s response to the September 11 terrorist attacks show: "When stable, Euro-America can afford to preach to developing countries struggling with terrorists about the value of civil and political rights and the importance of the rule of law," notes Peerenboom, "but when faced with threats, much cherished rights go out the window. If there is anything universal, it would seem to be disregard for human rights whenever there are real or perceived threats to stability or order."

Mark Anthony Jones said...

Sorry FOARP - when I said that torture is particularly a problem in "low and lower-middle countries like India, Sri Lanka, etc.," I meant low and lower-middle INCOME countries.

Gilman Grundy said...

MAJ - For once I actually bothered to read one of your cut-and-paste comments all the way through, but I can't say I was impressed.

Firstly, the name FOARP comes from a Public Enemy record. Secondly, the torture which the detainees were subjected to was authorised at the highest levels - this is the difference. Thirdly, no, the Chinese people have not 'accepted' the need for a trade off between human rights and security - at what point did they demonstrate 'acceptance'?

oneopinionatedmother said...

yo FOARP, my first thoughts upon reading this post was 'whoah, Butlins *has* gone down hill of late' but yeah, despicable the MAJ I reckon the thinking that civil liberty can be traded for stability is not unique to China,though I certainly I believe you and I would be disgusted by that trade off in any country. I hate that argument in the UK and have not accepted it from our democratically elected government, what is to be feared about a wholly red planet is that there one would never have the luxury of a vote on the subject - as I believe your come-back points out.

Lot Grundy said...

Of course, those who have performed or advocated for torture have zero experience of 'live' situations, where the security or very existence of their country is at stake, or on evenly matched battlefields.

Over the last week, Rush Limbaugh hectored and abused a former marine on his show, who called in to voice concerns about the GOP's seeming support for torture. Limbaugh, an ex-drug-addict thesp, derided the marine, calling him a brain-washed liberal.

Then there is the story I read in the Guardian about a detainee's friendship with his guard; a vietnam veteran. The vet was angered by the other guards, who had never seen combat, and were viscious with the prisoners - kicking and verbally abusing them at every opportunity.

I guess it's just easier to abuse people if you've never felt fear or had to be a man.

You know, like politicians.

Gilman Grundy said...

Total ownage of this BS -