torture, violence

Quotes from Ratner and Ray

Guantánamo: What the World Should Know is basically a 93 page interview (with 60 some pages in the appendix of documents that were alluded to during the interview) with Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as the interviewee and Ellen Ray, President of the Institute for Media Analysis, as the interviewer. This book is most helpful insomuch that it reaches beyond five minute political arguments on an entertainment… er I mean “news show.” While the text certainly comes from a specific point of view (one I happen to agree with), it does give a text that talks about most topics and therefore a holisitic view of one side – in short, this is a good interview in terms of topics addressed. Also, the text is copiously littered with facts and dissenting voices that are rarely addressed, but are very much in need of voicing, especially if one claims to think critically about the world one relates too.

For example, by November 2001, the police and the FBI had already arrested and detained, by some estimates, up to three thousand Muslim and Arab noncitizens in the United States. These people were not even suspected of terrorism; they were merely non-U.S. citizens who had allegedly violated some immigration procedure. Many of these people effectively disappeared in U.S. jails; a number were beaten and ultimately deported. – 7

[I am struck by the similarities between Pinochet’s torturous reign and this Bush administration, particularly when it comes to treating “detainees.” We even “disappear” people. Hopefully we’re not dumping their bodies into the ocean, but I can’t imagine that we are treating anyone well, particularly the ones we simply make disappear.]

Villagers and warlords, including members of the Northern Alliance, started turning over their enemies or anyone they didn’t like, or finally, anyone they could pick up. Among those who have been released are taxi drivers and even a shepherd in his nineties. – 9

The key point here is that everyone picked up in a war is protected by the Geneva Conventions. No one is outside the law. No one can be treated arbitrarily at the discretion of his captors. – 11

Not only torture but other forms of abuse are prohibited by the Convention Against Torture: cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment (conduct that is severe, but not so severe as to amount to torture) is also prohibited. A stress position, for example, such as forced standing for a number of hours might not be torture but is still prohibited. – 30

So classifying these people as threats to the United States has nothing to do with how you must treat them. They still have to be treated humanely, and humane treatment does not include torture. In addition, torture committed by U.S. soldiers or private contractors acting under U.S. authority is a violation of federal law, punishable by the death penalty if the death of a prisoner results from the torture. Another federal statute criminalizes any grave breach of the Geneva Conventions – including torture, willful killing, inhuman treatment, and causing great suffering to those in custody – as a war crime. Furthermore, a special statute criminalizes such conduct if carried out by so-called private contractors working with the U.S. military. – 32


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