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The Law on torture

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  • Frog Farmer
    /This article first appeared in The Lakeville Journal on November 9th 2007. /by Anthony Piel (/a former legal counsel of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 17, 2007
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      /This article first appeared in The Lakeville Journal
      <http://www.lakevillejournal.com/> on November 9th 2007. /by
      Anthony Piel (/a former legal counsel of the World Health
      Organization and a former member of the US Army's 2nd & 4th
      Armored Divisions./)

      President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney as well as a
      succession of current and former attorneys general, legal counsels,
      secretaries of defense, judicial appointees, CIA agents and others seem
      to be having difficulty figuring out what constitutes torture or other
      cruel and inhuman treatment as a matter of law. For example, does
      "waterboarding" constitute torture? Perhaps they could do with a primer
      on the subject.

      What does the law actually say? According to the 1984 Convention
      Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment: "The
      term 'torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether
      physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such
      purposes as obtaining information or a confession ... inflicted by or at
      the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public
      official or any other person acting in an official capacity ... No
      exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat
      of war, internal political stability or any other public emergency, may
      be invoked as a justification of torture." Could any statement of law be

      The Convention continues: "No State Party shall expel, return
      ('refouler') or extradite a person to another State where there are
      substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being
      subjected to torture." In short, "rendition" is also flat-out illegal.
      Conviction of acting officials in the chain of command for such
      violations that are part and parcel of war crimes or crimes against
      humanity, pursuant to the US inspired, post World War II Nuremberg
      Doctrine, makes those officials, irrespective of rank, title or
      position, subject to punishment by life imprisonment or the death
      penalty. This is no laughing matter. It's not even a matter of
      impeachment of a few wayward officials.

      Is the US bound by the law? Yes. Can the US president grant
      immunity? No. The US government crafted, promoted, adopted, signed and
      ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture, which therefore
      automatically becomes the "supreme law of the land," pursuant to the US
      Constitution, which itself forbids cruel punishment. No enabling
      legislation is required to give effect to these basic principles of law.

      Only the details of how cases are dealt with are subject to further
      legislation or executive order. Each state party is required by the
      Convention to enforce its terms under its own national criminal law. The
      failure to do so is itself a violation of international and US
      Constitutional law.

      Note that the Convention, and therefore the national and
      international law on torture, makes no reference and provides no escape
      clause for treatment that amounts to less than "organ failure" - a vile
      concept prefabricated by the Bush administration, with absolutely no
      basis in law. It is absolutely irrelevant whether "waterboarding" does
      or does not produce organ failure. Repeated drowning, revival and
      drowning again causes acute suffering, whether performed in a full-size
      bath tub, a bucket or basin, or by means of a cloth stuffed over the
      face and in the mouth while water is poured over the victim.
      Waterboarding constitutes torture; it is utterly immoral and illegal,
      period, full stop. Besides, more than 50 detainees are known to have
      died under Bush's secret program of interrogation, and many more are
      suspected of the same under Bush's secret program of illegal rendition.

      During World War II, with so much hanging in the balance, we
      Americans did not torture prisoners to obtain information or confession.

      Even more telling, we did not use torture during the Cold War when we
      faced the real possibility of massive exchange of surprise nuclear
      strikes. This was especially striking in Germany in the 1950s. At that
      time, I was personally involved in the physical capture of a Soviet
      agent working in a Warsaw Pact spy ring. I attended as he was
      interrogated all night long in a detention center. Professional
      interrogators threatened him with both carrot and stick, but they never
      used torture. The agent finally chose the carrot. He broke down and
      yielded reliable and verifiable information (which torture would not
      have yielded) and this led, within weeks, to the mopping up of the
      entire spy ring. (At the time of which I speak, many of today's leaders
      and actors were still crawling around in diapers.) The moral of the
      story: We don't "do" torture, because torture is illegal, it is immoral,
      we are Americans, and we don't want others to torture us. It's that

      Torture, within the meaning of the 1984 Convention Against Torture,
      continues to be secretly and systematically inflicted and condoned by
      various officials at the highest levels of the Bush administration. Most
      of these high-level officials have no experience of combat, of
      imprisonment or of interrogation. They have trashed the reputation of
      America around the globe. As a result, they are contributing to the rise
      of international terrorism. These leaders and actors appear to lack the
      imagination, intellectual capacity and moral compass to understand what
      is at stake, and keep America on the moral high ground. They need a
      primer on the basics. They better learn quick, because there is no
      statute of limitations on war crimes and crimes against humanity, and as
      our US president has himself said, in a not-dissimilar context, "They
      can run, but they can't hide."


      End of article.


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