Posts Tagged ‘Abu Ghraib’

Christian Support of Torture

I was reading the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life(1) of a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press illustrates differences in the views of four major religious traditions in the U.S. about whether torture of suspected terrorists can be justified. The study found that of those good american christians who attended church on a weekly basis 73% answered that the use of torture can be justified. That 73% was made up as Often / Sometimes / Rarely justified. 

I found this staggering.

Abu Ghraib torture instruments

Abu Ghraib torture instruments

In the New Testament the word “Witness” is the proper translation of the Greek word for Martyr, specifically someone who suffers for speaking out. In the mythology of the christian bible Christ was martyred on the cross for speaking truth to power & authority. The imagery of Christ nailed to a cross should be a constant reminder to christians of what torture really means. For us atheists we should always keep in mind that bearing witness is the fundamental tenant of what we today call Human Rights.

In the latin Vulgate translation of the bible in John 19.5  Pontius Pilate utters the words “Ecce homo” as he presents the tortured (by the scourge) Christ to the crowd – “Behold the man”. Given that this heritage is so deeply embedded into the christian bible I find it utterly stunning that anyone thinking themselves to be christian can in anyway condone even the merest thought of torturing a fellow human being, no matter what their supposed crime(s) might be. Shame on them.

In the west we think ourselves as Human Rights cultures (even though the evidence of our hypocrisy is all to evident – ref 3), so what has gone wrong ? I think Human rights in our liberal cultures has shifted away from witnessing the rights of our fellow individuals to institutionalising human rights into a larger term we call “democracy”. By making this shift some very clever people in power have accommodated the concept that individual human beings maybe tortured when it is part of preserving the so called “greater cause” of democracy because that is “the big picture of human rights”, it is seductive, especially to the non-thinkers, the mere followers, in society, but it is the road to hell because it is a Lie.

Human Rights (2) start and end with how each one of us bear witness to our fellow individual human beings. When we stop doing this the gateway is opened up for authority to commit whatever evil they wish and justify it as being something for the greater good (defence of the state/democracy/freedom). But the only effective way to achieve a greater good is for that greater good to be made up of many small goods, the good of the individual act of bearing witness.

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References
Reference One

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.
<http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_detail.aspx?id=51580>

Poll question wording: Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?

http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/The-Religious-Dimensions-of-the-Torture-Debate.aspx

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Reference Two

United Nations Convention Against Torture

Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

— Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

Ban on torture and cruel and degrading treatment

Article 2 of the convention prohibits torture, and requires parties to take effective measures to prevent it in any territory under its jurisdiction. This prohibition is absolute and non-derogable. “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever” may be invoked to justify torture, including war, threat of war, internal political instability, public emergency, terrorist acts, violent crime, or any form of armed conflict. Torture cannot be justified as a means to protect public safety or prevent emergencies. Neither can it be justified by orders from superior officers or public officials. The prohibition on torture applies to all territories under a party’s effective jurisdiction, and protects all people under its effective control, regardless of citizenship or how that control is exercised.Since the Conventions entry into force, this absolute prohibition has become accepted as a principle of customary international law.
Because it is often difficult to distinguish between cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and torture, the Committee regards Article 16’s prohibition of such treatment as similarly absolute and non-derogable.
The other articles of part I lay out specific obligations intended to implement this absolute prohibition by preventing, investigating and punishing acts of torture.

Ban on Refoulement

Article 3 prohibits parties from returning, extraditing or refouling any person to a state “where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture”. The Committee against Torture has held that this danger must be assessed not just for the initial receiving state, but also to states to which the person may be subsequently expelled, returned or extradited.

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Reference Three
CIA Training Materials:

“Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual-1983”
“KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation-July 1963

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Reference Four

  • It allowed brutal and horrific tortures, including sexual torture, to take place over many months in Abu Grabe, tortures that including beatings, hangings, anal rape, starvation, sensory deprivation, dog attack, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging, walling, facial holds, facial slaps, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation (11 days), it allowed brutal tortures at Guantanamo Bay -sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging.
  • It allows it to continue today at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan – insects placed in a confinement box, beatings, hangings, anal rape, starvation, sensory deprivation, dog attack, electrocution, hot boxes, water-boarding, drugging, walling, facial holds, facial slaps, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation.
  • CIA Black prisons around the globe.The CIA seem to favour stripping prisoners naked, strapping them to a bed, in a very white room which is air-conditioned to be very cold – Cold Cell Torture – where a prisoner can be left for up to three weeks. They also use Sweatboxes and coubarils.
  • It allows countries that should know better to detain people without trial and cut off from family and friends for many years because this is just another form of torture. I could go on and on with examples but I hope you see my point.
  • It allows The use of Cold Cell torture in US prisons (Miami/Dade, Florida, 9th floor) and sheriffs stations (Sheriff James Cannon of Charleston County, South Carolina.).The US Military brigs, both in Charleston and Quantico, have entire wings of temperature controlled hypothermic torture chambers. At night Private Manning was (may still be) stripped naked and locked onto a cold metal slab. The air conditioning units blew 45 degree air into the cell at great speed. Private Manning curled into the fetal position and shook violently all night long. There was no way to sleep when the body sustains that level of pain. Torture.

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