The US stands condemned in the world of public opinion as being led by war criminals and condoners of war crimes and a nation that practices the most disgusting forms of torture. You can be sure that we still haven’t been told the worst of it, since the full report has not been released and neither have the videos of the force-feeding of Guantanamo detainees.
There will be immense efforts to try and obfuscate the issue by the torturers and their aplogists. We have to be clear that there is absolutely no legal wiggle room to argue that what was done was not torture nor to escape prosecution for torture. The United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is unambiguous. Here is the definition of torture in Article 1, Section 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.
There is no doubt that what was done by the CIA is torture, however much the head of the CIA, the Senate report, and their lackeys in the media shy away from using that word and replace it with euphemisms like ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’.
Furthermore, the convention is also clear that there are no extenuating circumstances (such as the very popular ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario) that can be used to justify torture. Article 2 states:
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.
This convention has been ratified by 156 states. President Ronald Reagan signed it on behalf of the US in April 1988 and the US Congress ratified it in October 1994. The US State Department, on its official website, is unequivocal about what ratifying this convention implies.
Torture is prohibited by law throughout the United States. It is categorically denounced as a matter of policy and as a tool of state authority. Every act constituting torture under the Convention constitutes a criminal offence under the law of the United States. No official of the Government, federal, state or local, civilian or military, is authorized to commit or to instruct anyone else to commit torture. Nor may any official condone or tolerate torture in any form. No exceptional circumstances may be invoked as a justification of torture. United States law contains no provision permitting otherwise prohibited acts of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to be employed on grounds of exigent circumstances (for example, during a “state of public emergency”) or on orders from a superior officer or public authority, and the protective mechanisms of an independent judiciary are not subject to suspension.
It should be no surprise that although president Obama is willing to flout the law in order to shield torturers, there are increasing calls nationally and internationally for actions to be taken to prosecute those who did these things.
The UN, human rights activists and legal experts have renewed calls for the Obama administration to prosecute US officials responsible for the CIA torture programme revealed in extensive detail following the release of a damning report by the Senate intelligence committee.
The report, released on Tuesday, found the CIA misled the White House, the Justice Department, Congress and the public over a torture programme that was both ineffective and more brutal than the agency disclosed.
“Today’s release once again makes crystal clear that the US government used torture. Torture is a crime and those responsible for crimes must be brought to justice,” Amnesty International USA’s executive director, Steven W Hawkins, said in a statement.
“Under the UN convention against torture, no exceptional circumstances whatsoever can be invoked to justify torture, and all those responsible for authorising or carrying out torture or other ill-treatment must be fully investigated.”
In Geneva, the United Nations’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, said CIA officers and other US government officials should be prosecuted.
“The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorised at a high level within the US government provides no excuse whatsoever,” Emmerson said in a statement.
Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch, says that torturers must be prosecuted. Similar calls have emanated from other civil rights organizations that the chief architects of the torture programs be prosecuted.
But since the US stands convicted of being a torture-condoning nation because of president Obama’s refusal to take any action, it is hoped that international courts be used and indictments issued so that all of these criminals (Bush, Cheney, Hayden, Tenet, Brennan, Yoo, Addington, Bybee, Rumsfeld, and the rest of the gang) risk arrest if they travel outside the US.