Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It was torture

The CIA's "enhanced interrogation" techniques "constituted torture", according to the Red Cross. As the international body tasked with monitoring the Geneva Conventions and treatment of Prisoners of War, they'd know. But just so there's no doubt:

The report's table of contents lists the methods the prisoners told the ICRC they had endured.

Taken overall they constitute an attempt to break a prisoner down through sensory deprivation and beatings, none of which is supposed to leave physical damage that can be traced.

The accounts indicate that a combination of methods was used on each prisoner.

The methods listed included: Suffocation by water or waterboarding; prolonged stress standing; beating by use of a collar; confinement in a box; prolonged nudity; sleep deprivation and subjection to noise and cold water; and denial of solid food.

The Americans argue that this is not torture, but merely "hard time". History disagrees. Compare and contrast:
[Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] said he underwent waterboarding five times: "A cloth would be placed over my face, cold water from a bottle kept in a fridge was then poured onto the cloth by one of the guards so I could not breathe."

Painting by a former prison inmate, Vann Nath, of Khmer Rouge waterboarding, at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Or this:

[Abu Zubaydah] said he was put into a tall box and later into a smaller one in which he had to crouch, causing a wound on his leg to start bleeding.
The "little ease"
The basement of the White Tower [of the Tower of London] was believed to have housed the notorious dungeon known as the "Little Ease". This terrifying chamber was built in the thickness of the wall and measured just 1.2m square (4sq ft). The hapless prisoner of the 'Little Ease' could neither sit, stand, nor lie, but was compelled to serve his sentence in a cramped and crouching position. Guy Fawkes was shackled hand and foot in the ‘Little Ease’ following his arrest for his part in the Gunpowder plot...
We recognise this unquestionably as torture when seen in a historical context. The same applies to the Americans. The question is how long it will be before those responsible for this torture - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, and the rest - are held accountable for it, under either US or international law.