National Security Act – Torture

May 6, 2009

By Padmini Arhant


The nation riddled with recent events pertaining to national security.  In the past few weeks, there have been vigorous debates and discussions on the release of the torture memos describing the torture tactics applied on the speculative terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay and those held in Bagram Prison, Afghanistan.

There are polarizing views regarding the release of these materials claiming the potential threat to national security including the CIA and FBI operatives’ difficulty in performing their duties to keep the country safe.  Those in favor of transparency welcome the Obama administration’s gesture subject to further course of action. Merely releasing the materials will not suffice considering the misuse of power and gross violation of humanitarian laws.

In addition, the subsequent argument on the possible prosecution of the individuals responsible for torture against the Geneva Convention contributing yet another dilemma in the definition of torture and accountability factor.  Obviously, the predecessors’ supporters vehemently oppose the entire action thus far – from revealing the information to investigation.

The Obama administration‘s ambiguity on the humanitarian issue perceived as the White House conspicuously avoiding ‘retribution’ smear and possible distraction from the legislative matters like the universal health care.   Meanwhile, concerned citizens intrigued by the extreme strategy implemented to justify the imminent danger hypothesis, a constant practice by the previous administration notably the successful fear-mongering tactic during and after the Iraq invasion and occupation.

A full disclosure of the interrogation techniques particularly the notorious water boarding , ill-treatment and the indefinite imprisonment of the ‘so-called suspects’ in these captive centers confirm the serious violation of International Code namely the rejection of GCIII and Habeas Corpus.

It is important to examine the exact interpretation of the International laws set up for guidance and ethical purpose.  Further, the enforcement of these laws is to ensure precisely the state/the authorities remain confined to the jurisdiction of power against unarmed human beings in detention.

Source: The (The Free encyclopedia) – Thanks

The Third Geneva Convention of 1949 (abbreviated GCIII or GPW) , one of the Geneva Conventions, is a treaty agreement that primarily concerns the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs), and also touched on other topics. It replaced the Geneva Convention (1929).

According to Article 3, Part 1, General Provisions referred to as ‘Convention in miniature,’

“Noncombatants, combatants who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, including prohibition of outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.

The passing of sentences must also be pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees, which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.  Article 3’s protections exist even if one is not classified as a prisoner of war.”

Habeas corpus (IPA: /ˌheɪbiːæsˈkɔːpəs/) (Latin: You (shall) have the body[1]) is a legal action, or writ, through which a person can seek relief from the unlawful detention of him or herself, or of another person.  It protects the individual from harming him or herself, or from being harmed by the judicial system.  The writ of habeas corpus has historically been an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.

Simply put,

Habeas corpus, a legal action through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention.

The due process for such petitions is not simply civil or criminal, because they incorporate the presumption of nonauthority.  The official who is the respondent has the burden to prove his authority to do or not do something.  Failing this, the court must decide for the petitioner, who may be any person, not just an interested party.  This differs from a motion in a civil process in which the movant must have standing, and bears the burden of proof.”

Here are some news articles detailing the torture on presumed ‘suspects’ held in captivity by the U.S authorities.

Warning: The following articles are graphic and may not be suitable for all.

“I Could Not Stop Screaming”

“The British newspaper Guardian (2/18/2005) reported that one Bagram prisoner, a Palestinian named Mustafa, was blindfolded, handcuffed, gagged, and forced to bend down over a table by three American soldiers.  He said, “They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum… I could not stop screaming when this happened.”

In another case reported by the Guardian, a Jordanian prisoner, Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed Al Deemawi, said that during a 40-day period at Bagram he was threatened with dogs, stripped and photographed “in shameful and obscene positions” and placed in a cage with a hook and a hanging rope.  He says he was hung from this hook, blindfolded, for two days.

Both men were freed from U.S. detention last year after being held at Bagram and Guantánamo.  Neither has been charged with anything by any government.

Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and farmer, was killed by U.S. torturers at Bagram in December 2002.  He had been beaten and chained by his wrists for four days. After his last torture session, Dilawar was chained back to the ceiling.  Several hours passed before a doctor saw him—by which time he was dead and already beginning to stiffen.

“An official of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission questioned –

“Are They Going to Vanish Forever?”

“The Americans are detaining people without any legal procedure. Prisoners do not have the opportunity to demonstrate their innocence.”

Despite the unprecedented human rights violations… translated barbaric in modern times, the defense for the authorities authorizing and executing the medieval customs against unarmed detainees charged guilty without due process is astonishing.  The world witnessed the pervasive prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, Bagram, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay through explosive visuals, editorials, columns and interviews predominantly from the international sources and on-line mass media.

Incidentally, the torturers’ loyalists cry ‘foul’ against the latest revelation.  Even though, the international news organizations and human rights groups have been reporting these incidents all along per above articles.  Contrasting the detainees position, all those responsible for the unconscionable crime against humanity involving innocent victims in the witch-hunt for terror suspects, are also exempt from due process however, with the distinction of them proclaimed “Patriotic” in their utter disregard for International laws and human rights.

Clearly, the abuse of power in this context from the pyramid‘s apex to the base is symbolic in the embarrassing chapter of American history.  Ironically, the explanation for torture attributed to national defense while ignoring the brutality against other nationals and their families’ ordeal.

One might argue if it’s worth treading the retribution path rather than moving forward.  It’s possible to move forward if the past had no remnants of violation of the laws involving global citizens in prolonged detention specifically in the absence of any evidence or trials.  Similar treatment of American nationals would have created pandemonium at all levels.

Besides, such practices open the floodgates for misuse of power by future administrations notwithstanding other nations…currently witnessed in the treatment of American journalists imprisoned on allegedly espionage charges by Iran and North Korea.

Whenever there is excessive abuse of power, unequivocally democracy threatened aside from the Constitution made irrelevant.  Therefore, it’s incumbent on the people in a democracy to ensure that neither the state nor any authority is above the law in the land of justice.

Please stand by for more information and analysis on related topics.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant