08 March 2008

Torture & the War on Terror

For the world's supposed shining bastion of democracy and freedom, the United States of America, it seems that "enhanced" interrogation techniques are just another day in the office for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The US Army Field Manual has been amended to add three techniques to list of 16 permissible techniques and to expressly prohibit 8 other "enhanced" techniques. Unfortunately, it appears that this does not apply to the CIA.

Nevertheless, after successfully negotiating the House and the Senate in the US, a Bill that would ban certain interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding as used by the CIA, is set to be vetoed by President Bush.

The question though in theory should be a moot one as the US Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 bans all cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment for all detainees in US custody including the custody of the CIA.

I am not naive enough to believe that there are not people capable of twisting the rules in order to create loopholes and a quick search of the Internet will highlight why. It has been US practice to set up secret prisons and other detention facilities and usually outside of the territory of the US and use torture as well as other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment to get 'results' from interrogation. The practice of extraordinary rendition is illegal under international law in spite of argumanets to the contrary.

But results obtained under enhanced interrogation techniques such as these are unreliable. It is not rocket science and it is therefore pretty easy to understand that if you are being physically, psychologically, or emotionally abused that it is not long before you will tell your tormentor anything that you think they might want to hear.

The balance between protecting your citizens from harm and extending the basic human rights protections that are to be enjoyed by all, even those who seek to harm you, is a difficult one. But the simple and principled morality of this argument is that torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment is wrong under all circumstances. Therefore, the answer to this dilemma suddenly becomes much clearer, you just cannot justify these kinds of enhanced interrogation techniques.

This is what is banned: forcing the detainee to be naked; perform sexual acts or pose in a sexual manner; placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee; using duct tape over the eyes; beatings, electric shock, burns or other forms of physical pain; waterboarding; use of military working dogs; inducing hypothermia or heat injury; conducting mock executions; depriving the detainee of necessary food, water or medical care.

I would imagine that there is a simple answer to the "why do they hate us?" question.

This post is not intended to explore all the academic angles of the debate. Maybe I will post that lengthy piece later!

1 comment:

Nenda Fadhilah said...

I wonder why Bush or his advisers did not read the recent decision of ECtHR namely Saadi v. Italy (http://www.ucc.ie/law/blogs/ccjhr/2008/03/saadi-v-italy-ecthr-reaffirms-article.html) which affirms the absolute prohibition of torture and CIDT plus the non-refoulment principle. Even though that the universality of ECtHR decision can be disputed at least it can be a proof that the absolute ban of torture and CIDT also the non-refoulment principle is exist.

Well, I guess history will tell how Bush legacy will looks like, even thought I think that it won't be a favourable one. He made American soldiers risk into 'legal' torture at the future as General David H. Petraeus put it.