Week 5: Torture Cathy Gormley-Heenan School of Policy Studies
Photograph of Rangzieb Ahmed's hands taken in September 2007, one year after he said his fingernails were removed. Photograph: Greater Manchester police
Introduction • Torture is widespread…. • Committed by authoritarian regimes such as Iraq (under Saddam), China, Saudi Arabia. • Committed by ‘first world’ democracies such as the US, UK, Israel. • Political prisoners as most studied victims of torture. • Is a practice deemed as deviant by the international community and domestic audiences and thus should be a focus for criminologists.
Did you know? • The US Army School of the Americas played a role in the training of Latin American torturers…. • Their training manuals made public in 1996… • Pentagon had to then admit that its students were taught torture, murder, sabotage, bribery, blackmail, extortion, using hypnosis and truth serums, arrest of parents etc….
Another Bushism…. • “Torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.” (January 2005)
The language of torture that you need to know…. • Environmental manipulationSubjecting prisoners to extremes of hot and cold. • Forced grooming Forcible shaving. Deeply humiliating for some Muslims. • Manipulative self-injurious behaviourThe US government’s description of 21 attempted suicides at Guantanamo Bay. • Pride and ego down Label for techniques used to undermine prisoners’ self-esteem and dignity.
Rendition Kidnapping terrorist suspects and delivering them to a foreign country for trial. In ‘extraordinary rendition’, suspects are ‘lent’ to a foreign country for interrogation and torture. • R2IResistance to interrogation: a training system used by British special forces, in which subjects are stripped naked and sexually humiliated. • Rumsfeld processing Colloquial term for removing prisoners from army camps and holding them in CIA facilities, which the Red Cross is not permitted to visit.
Sensory deprivation Depriving prisoners of both sight and hearing, for example, by hooding combined with white noise. • Sleep adjustment Repeatedly interrupting a prisoner’s sleep, while allowing them adequate sleep overall. • Stress position Position which a prisoner is ordered to maintain, causing discomfort or pain without physical contact.
Unlawful combatants US definition of Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners; as such, they are said to be unprotected by the Geneva Conventions. • The Vietnam Treatment in which electrodes (real or fake) are attached to the victim's body. • WaterboardingCIA treatment in which the victim is smothered with a wet cloth, creating the sensation of drowning.
Laws and Documents You Should Know About… • UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) • UN Declaration of Human Right (Article 5) • Declaration of Tokyo 1975(WMA) • Bybee Memo 2002 (US)
UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984) • Requires states to take effective measures to prevent torture within their borders, and forbids states to return people to their home country if there is reason to believe they will be tortured. • Remember that conventions are legally binding instruments concluded under international law.
UN Convention Against Torture Definition • Article 1 of the UN Convention defines torture as: “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
UN Declaration of Human Rights (Article 5) • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Declaration of Tokyo • Was adopted in October 1975 during the 29th General Assembly of the World Medical Association, and updated by the WMA in France, May 2005 and 2006. • It declares torture to be "contrary to the laws of humanity," and antithetical to the "higher purpose" of the physician, which is to "alleviate the distress of his or her fellow human being."
Bybee Memo • Document prepared by the United States Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to redefine torture in 2002 &provided legal guidance for those engaged in interrogating terrorism suspects. • Physical pain "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. • Mental pain "must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years," as well as be the result of one of the specific causes of mental pain contained. • The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture."
Redefining Torture? • BybeeMemo • Detainees not classified as civilians or as prisoners of war (both protected under Geneva Conventions) but instead as ‘illegal enemy combatants’. • Thus, no protections afforded to such people in law. • Outcry from human rights experts.
John C. Yoo, the deputy assistant attorney general says in defense… • “Why is it so hard for people to understand that there is a category of behavior not covered by the legal system?” he said. “What were pirates? They weren’t fighting on behalf of any nation. What were slave traders? Historically, there were people so bad that they were not given protection of the laws. There were no specific provisions for their trial, or imprisonment. If you were an illegal combatant, you didn’t deserve the protection of the laws of war.”
Yoo cited precedents for his position. “The Lincoln assassins were treated this way, too,” he said. “They were tried in a military court, and executed.” The point, he said, was that the Geneva Conventions’ “simple binary classification of civilian or soldier isn’t accurate.” • See http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/02/14/050214fa_fact6?currentPage=all
What’s the purpose of torture? • To force the victim to talk (most commonly cited reason) • To subdue a population by state terrorism • To eliminate oppositional leadership • To eliminate oppositional civil society
Physicians for Human Rights (2001) Manual for treating victims of torture says… • “Perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill-treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualisations obscure the purpose of torture ... The aim of torture is to dehumanise the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."
Lynndie England, charged with offences at Abu Ghraib, was asked during her trial why she and her colleagues had forced naked prisoners into a human pyramid. • "As a way to control them“.
Forms of torture Beatings, kickings, stretchings, whippings, burnings, electric shocks, genital mutilation, rape and other forms of sexual assault, cuttings, suspensions (including hangings and crucifixions), breaking bones, amputations, teeth or fingernail extraction, attacks by animals, forced submersion into water, urine, vomit, blood or faeces or other matter, injections or the use of chemicals which can cause blindness, asphyxiation, deprivation of food, water, sleep or sanitary conditions, sensory deprivation or overload, psychological pressures….
Much discussed example of torture Waterboarding • Cloth paced in mouth, water poured over face to induce gagging and sensation of drowning….. • In 2006, Vice-President Cheney defended water-boarding. Asked on a radio programme whether "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?" he replied: "Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticised as being the vice-president for torture. We don't torture." • On the other hand, Senator and Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who was tortured by the North Vietnamese as a prisoner of war, has said that water-boarding is torture: "It no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank." • See: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7138144.stm
Concealed Torture – Extraordinary Rendition • The controversial practice of rendition involves the capture and transfer of terror suspects across the world, without legal process. • Relies on the fact that the Convention Against Torture is only binding on nations that have ratified it. • Countries have included Egypt, Syria, Cyprus, Qatar, Jordan, Morocco and even Uzbekistan - the latter being a country which has reportedly boiled prisoners alive. • Although the US has effectively administered rendition flights via its security services, many other countries - including Britain - are said to be complicit in the activity.
The UK, Ireland and Extraordinary Rendition • On British Soil - two flights landed at Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory where the US has a large air base, in 2002. Government have now admitted to this (though not until 2008). • On Irish soil - Amnesty International says it has collected evidence that three aircraft involved in US rendition flights had links to Shannon Airport. Irish government denies it. Irish Human Rights Commission published a review of Ireland’s international obligations regarding extraordinary renditions – “put in place a reliable and independently verifiable system of inspection [of relevant aircraft]”. • In Northern Ireland – campaigners have said that rendition flights also landed in Belfast International and City of Derry airports after January 2001.
Torture ‘Lite’ • Torture by music • Sleep deprivation • Forced standing • Torture by water, ice, heat or cold • They leave no obvious marks and useful for those states who are monitored.
Binyam Mohamed’s diary • “They cuffed me and put earphones on my head. They played hip-hop and rock music, very loud. I remember they played Meatloaf and Aerosmith over and over. I hated that”. (September 2002) • “It was pitch black, no lights on in the rooms for most of the time ... They hung me up. I was allowed a few hours of sleep on the second day, then hung up again, this time for two days…My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb ... There was loud music, Eminem's Slim Shady and Dr Dre for 20 days ..."
Legitimising Discourse in Support of Torture • War on Terror destroyed our assumptions that torture was a thing of the past. • Torture is being portrayed as an appropriate response, given the circumstances • Further legitimised by state and corporations trade in torture technologies such as stun guns, leg shackles, trauma inducing drugs, electroshock weapons and chemical gases.
“All you need to know is that there was a ‘before 9/11’ and there was an ‘after 9/11.’ After 9/11, the gloves came off”. Cofer Black, in charge of counter-terrorism at the C.I.A (September 26, 2002), addressing the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Excuses Given • Torture may extract vital information • It’s an emergency • They don’t deserve any better • It’s not really torture • Seehttp://www.channel4.com/news/microsites/T/torture/excuses.html
Techniques of Netralization • Denial (there are no rendition flights) • Reclassification of what’s happened (It’s not torture, it’s self defence) • Justification (in the interest of national security)
Is torture ever justified? • Read ‘A Child’s Life or a “Little Bit of Torture”? State-Sanctioned Violence and Dignity’ now added to your weekly reading list. • Abduction of 11-year-old Jakob von Metzler, in Germany 2002. • Police watch kidnapper collect ransom and arrest him • Threatened with violence to force a statement from him about where the child was…..
Contd…. • Child was found dead. • Abductor arrested, charged and imprisoned • In 2003, the police president Gaschner was charged with obtaining a statemeny by duress. • In December 2004, a law court ruled that Gaschner acted unlawfully (though was not sentenced because of the issue of intent to save a life). • Led to huge public debate in Germany about whether the threat of torture is ever justified….
Justification? • Read also the discussion between a group of US academics on this very issue at a round table in Harvard • http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/torture/justify/
Additional Resources • The Torture Question http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/torture/ • Watch Standard Operating Procedure - a film documentary about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq
Questions to consider • Are we in danger of allowing torture to become acceptable again? • Does torture even produce reliable evidence, or is it being used to break suspected terrorists? • Most fundamentally, does anything justify the use of torture?
Watch This • Torturing Democracy • See http://www.torturingdemocracy.org/ • The companion Web site for the film features key documents, a detailed timeline, the full annotated transcript of the show, and lengthy transcripts of major interviews carried out for the film. Hosted by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the Web site will ultimately include a complete “Torture Archive” of primary sources.