Saturday, May 20, 2006

UN to US: "stop torture"

Earlier in the month, the US went before the UN Committee Against Torture to give its regular report under the Convention Against Torture. The Committee asked a number of pointed questions regarding US activities in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and the "black sites", as well as on the status of investigations for torture and the practice of extraordinary rendition. Today, they released their concluding observations [PDF] - and it seems they weren't happy with the answers. They found various US positions - that the Convention did not apply in times of war, that they would neither confirm nor deny the existence of secret prisons, that disappearance did not constitute torture - to be "regrettable" (which is diplomatic code for "bullshit"). Then there's the recommendations, which include (in no particular order):

The state party should rescind any interrogation technique, including methods involving sexual humiliation, "water boarding", "short shackling" and using dogs to induce fear, that constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, in all places of detention under its de facto effective control, in order to comply with its obligations under the convention...

The state party should take immediate measures to eradicate all forms of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by its military or civilian personnel, in any territory under its jurisdiction, and should promptly and thoroughly investigate such acts and prosecute all those responsible for such acts, and ensure they are appropriately punished, in accordance with the seriousness of the crime...

The state party should apply the non-refoulement guarantee to all detainees in its custody, [and] cease the rendition of suspects, in particular by its intelligence agencies, to states where they face a real risk of torture...

The state party should ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its de facto effective control. Detaining persons in such conditions constitutes, per se, a violation of the Convention...

The State party should promptly, thoroughly, and impartially investigate any responsibility of senior military and civilian officials authorizing, acquiescing or consenting, in any way, to acts of torture committed by their subordinates

Or, in short: stop torture, stop rendition, stop disappearing people into secret prisons, and stick Donald Rumsfeld, Ricardo Sanchez, Alberto Gonzalez and John Yoo in jail where they belong. Oh, and while they're at it, they should shut down Guantanamo as well.

These are strong words for a UN Committee, but entirely justified. The US's treatment of detainees is unconscionable, its lax attitude to prosecutions and sentences for those who can be shown to have violated US law on torture and even murder utterly hypocritical. Now they've been called on it by the UN's highest body on torture, and told they are in clear violation of one of the fundamental UN human rights instruments. It will be interesting to see what their response will be...


I am concerned we may now have a clear majority of the world's population, military power and countries on the wrong side of the debate.

Posted by Genius : 5/20/2006 11:14:00 AM

There's always been a clear majority of the world's population (or at least, governments) on the wrong side of this debate. Shitty countries have long outnumbered decent ones, and most people have the misfortune to live in them.

The worry now is that we are seeing backsliding from civilised countries as well, which undermines the prospects for progress inthe shitty ones. China will not listen to criticism of its human rights record when the US is torturing and rendering with impunity.

Progress under the CAT was always going to be slow; the tactic is getting a government to commit to ending torture, then slowly getting them to abide by that commitment. The US's backsliding makes that much more difficult, nad makes the world a much worse place.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 5/21/2006 05:21:00 PM