Tag Archives: torture

"Torture" vs. “enhanced interrogation techniques”

Disclosing the gay-bashing preacher who hires his own rent-boy is a satisfying feeling on a personal level. All cultures have a special distaste for the hypocritical and two-faced. So it is even more gratifying when journalists uncover the nation’s national and foreign policies that contradictory. They range from the absolute hypocritical to the simple inept.

It’s not clear what impact the reports will have ultimately, but two recent front-page reports in The New York Times revealed how our ostensible allies in the Kurdish region of Iraq are supplying oil to Iran in contravention of American calls for an embargo. The Times noted with interview and photos that this trade is not a surreptitious activity but a daily caravan of more than 1,000 oil tanker trucks traveling U.S. protected roads that are helping Iran sustain itself against the embargo.

Even more direct, the Times reported that the IRS allows tax deductions for religious groups who are funding Israeli settlement activity in the Palestinian West Bank contrary to U.S. declarations, agreements and policy interests in the region.

You could find dozens of examples of such two-faced policy but finding the journalists, the institutions willing to fund that type of international investigations and reporting is becoming more difficulty.

Not that the press couldn’t find its own hypocrisy and contradictions: A Harvard study showed that the news media generally stopped using the work “torture” after the Bush administration “enhanced interrogation techniques” and an actual policy were revealed. The administration insisted that those techniques, including waterboarding were not “torture,” and almost overnight the nation’s news media changed. It stopped using the word “torture” supposedly because it was challenged by Bush political interests. Never mind that the media has used the word for decades to the same interrogation style from the Middle Ages to Japanese treatment of American POWs in World War II.

Omar Khadr's prosecution pushes the limits of international law

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba– Omar Khadr, a 23-year-old Canadian citizen charged with murder, conspiracy and support of terrorism whose pretrial hearings began this week, was captured by the United States in Afghanistan in 2002. Khadr was 15 at the time.

That’s not the centerpiece of the hearings; Khadr’s attorneys are asking the court to exclude incriminating statements he made because they were allegedly procured using torture. But Khadr’s age at the time of his capture remains a major concern for human rights advocates, and a point of legal contention.

Several non-governmental organization representatives here to observe the hearings believe that, at the time of Khadr’s capture, he was a child soldier. Subsequently, they contend, his rehabilitation, rather than prosecution, should have taken precedence and perhaps even blocked him from being charged in the first place.

“The detention, treatment and prosecution of Omar Khadr violates international law and flies in the face of accepted international practice,” said Jennifer Turner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, in an interview.

“Under international law, an alleged child soldier like Omar Khadr should be treated first and foremost as a candidate for rehabilitation and reintegration, not subjected to abuse and prosecution before military commission.”

The Department of Defense has acknowledged that at least 12 juveniles have been held in the Guanatanamo Bay detention facility, although human rights advocates speculate that the actual number may be higher.

Navy Capt. David Iglesias, a legal advisor to the office of military commissions and a prosecutor for commission cases other than Khadr’s, disagrees with the contention that the United States is in violation of international law. The government’s position, Iglesias said in an interview, is that the United Nations enacted the child soldier provisions to penalize countries that force children to fight.”

Iglesias, a former U.S. Attorney, also noted that the two Additional Protocols of 1977, amendments to the Geneva Conventions that concern child soldiers, have not been ratified by the United States.

The United States did ratify the Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, but even that does not prohibit Khadr’s prosecution, according to UNICEF’s website.

Stacy Sullivan, a court observer for Human Rights Watch, acknowledged that international law does not ban the prosecution of children for war crimes. But she noted that military tribunals have not been a venue for juvenile prosecution since the Second World War.

“Even the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where a great many of the crimes were committed by children, did not prosecute children,” wrote Sullivan in an email. “Prosecutors will say that that children were prosecuted for war crimes in Germany following World War II — but the claims are ridiculous. A couple of children were prosecuted for theft, and I think maybe one for murder, but none for war crimes.”

Sullivan also noted that there are other international laws regarding children that the U.S. may have violated since it captured Khadr.

“There is a lot in international law about the detention of children,” she wrote in an email.“They must be held separately from adults, given family visits, provided a lawyer, provided education, etc… The US, of course, did not do any of this [during Khadr’s detainment] so there is no question that the US violated its international legal obligations.”

Meanwhile Iglesias contends that there is only aspect of Khadr’s case to which his age is germane.

“Where it becomes relevant is for sentencing purposes,” he said. “ If he is found guilty, the judge can take into consideration the fact that he was only fifteen years old,” when the alleged crimes occurred.