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Interest and Perspective

Our views depend on our priorities and the information we receive

Sunday, June 10, 2007


A Few Examples of Our Tactics in The War on Human Rights

We don't hear as much about this story as we should, but the facts are clear. Our government kidnaps and shanghais citizens of other countries, tortures them, and imprisons them without legal recourse (which we would never condone or allow). This nightmare is completely un-American and deserves our media's attention on a daily basis.

"[T]he Orwellian message from State Legal Advisor John "Bellinger at the Hague on Wednesday" is that "We Don't Violate International Law--'We have simply not reached the result or interpretation that [our] critics prefer.'" Marty Lederman at Balkinization provides examples of how our government has abused people -- you know, human beings -- around the globe in the name of the War on Terror:

What are these "results" and "interpretations" of international law that our critics do not "prefer"?

That "extreme sensory deprivation" is permissible.

Not to mention waterboarding.

And hypothermia.

And stress positions.

And severe sleep deprivation.

And detaining six-year-olds in order to use them as leverage against their parents.

And disappearances, outside the purview of any legal system.

And renditions to nations in which torture is common, or to CIA "black sites" in Poland and Romania in which some or all of the above techniques are used.

And refusing to cooperate with an Italian prosecution of CIA and Italian agents who engaged in such lawbreaking, even when the prosecutors are those who have been fighting
terrorism for years.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the European Council's Parliamentary Assembly was had more in its report "Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states," which was published just a day later:

The report is a comprehensive account of the CIA's "High-Value Detainee" program at black sites in Europe. I can't possibly do it justice here. Please read the whole thing.

For starters, here are some of the Introductory remarks. Keep in mind, however, that these views are merely "interpretations" that the U.S. government does not "prefer."

1. What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice. Others have been held in arbitrary detention, without any precise charges levelled against them and without any judicial oversight – denied the possibility of defending themselves. Still others have simply disappeared for indefinite periods and have been held in secret prisons, including in member states of the Council of Europe, the existence and operations of which have been concealed ever since.

2. Some individuals were kept in secret detention centres for periods of several years, where they were subjected to degrading treatment and so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” (essentially a euphemism for a kind of torture), in the name of gathering information, however unsound, which the United States claims has protected our common security. Elsewhere, others have been transferred thousands of miles into prisons whose locations they may never know, interrogated ceaselessly, physically and psychologically abused, before being released because they were plainly not the people being sought. After the suffering they went through, they were released without a word of apology or any compensation – with one remarkable exception owing to the ethical and responsible approach of the Canadian authorities . . . .

3. While the strategy in question was devised and put in place by the current United States administration to deal with the threat of global terrorism, it has only been made possible by the collaboration at various institutional levels of America’s many partner countries. [T]hese partners have included several Council of Europe member states. Only exceptionally have any of them acknowledged their responsibility – as in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for instance – while the majority have done nothing to seek out the truth. Indeed many governments have done everything to disguise the true nature and extent of their activities and are persistent in their unco-operative attitude. . . .

4. The rendition, abduction and detention of terrorist suspects have always taken place outside the territory of the United States, where such actions would no doubt have been ruled unlawful and unconstitutional. Obviously, these actions are also unacceptable under the laws of European countries, who nonetheless tolerated them or colluded actively in carrying them out. This export of illegal activities overseas is all the more shocking in that it shows fundamental contempt for the countries on whose territories it was decided to commit the relevant acts. The fact that the measures only apply to non-American citizens is just as disturbing: it reflects a kind of "legal apartheid" and an exaggerated sense of superiority. Once again, the blame does not lie solely with the Americans but also, above all, with European political leaders who have knowingly acquiesced in this state of affairs.

5. Some European governments have obstructed the search for the truth and are continuing to do so by invoking the concept of “state secrets”. Secrecy is invoked so as not to provide explanations to parliamentary bodies or to prevent judicial authorities from establishing the facts and prosecuting those guilty of offences. This criticism applies to Germany and Italy, in particular. It is striking to note that state secrets are invoked on grounds almost identical to those advanced by the authorities in the Russian Federation in its crackdown on scientists, journalists and lawyers, many of whom have been prosecuted and sentenced for alleged acts of espionage. The same approach led the authorities of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to hide the truth and give an obviously false account of the actions of its own national agencies and the CIA in carrying out the secret detention and rendition of Khaled El-Masri.

6. Invoking state secrets in such a way that they apply even years after the event is unacceptable in a democratic state based on the rule of law. It is frankly all the more shocking when the very body invoking such secrets attempts to define their concept and scope, as a means of shirking responsibility.

14. We are fully aware of the seriousness of the terrorist threat and the danger it poses to our societies. However, we believe that the end does not justify the means in this area either. The fight against terrorism must not serve as an excuse for systematic recourse to illegal acts, massive violation of fundamental human rights and contempt for the rule of law. . . .

15. We have said it before and others have said it much more forcefully, but we must repeat it here: having recourse to abuse and illegal acts actually amounts to a resounding failure of our system and plays right into the hands of the criminals who seek to destroy our societies through terror. Moreover, in the process, we give these criminals a degree of legitimacy – that of fighting an unfair system – and also generate sympathy for their cause, which cannot but serve as an encouragement to
them and their supporters.

Adel Hamad's case is but one example of how our policies destroy lives and damage our reputation.

We should end this state of affairs immediately before we're viewed around the world as worse than Stalinist Russia (if we're not already).

As always, comments are welcome.

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