November 18, 2010

More On Bush's Torture Crimes (The UN's New Rapporteur Chimes In)

From Reuters:
The new U.N. torture expert urged the United States on Tuesday to conduct a full investigation into torture under the Bush administration and prosecute offenders as well as senior officials who ordered it.
"The United States has a duty to investigate every act of torture. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much in the way of accountability," said [Juan Ernesto] Mendez, himself a former torture victim, in the wide-ranging interview at the United Nations in Geneva.

"There has to be a more serious inquiry into what happened and by whose orders... It doesn't need to be seen to be partisan or vindictive, just an obligation to follow where the evidence leads," added Mendez, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture.
And what is a "UN special rapporteur"?

From the UN's website:
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, in resolution 1985/33, decided to appoint an expert, a special rapporteur, to examine questions relevant to torture. The mandate was extemded for 3 years by Human Rights Council resolution 8/8 in June 2008. It covers all countries, irrespective of whether a State has ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The mandate comprises three main activities:

1) transmitting urgent appeals to States with regard to individuals reported to be at risk of torture, as well as communications on past alleged cases of torture;
2) undertaking fact-finding country visits; and
3) submitting annual reports on activities, the mandate and methods of work to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.
So Mendez, aside expertize gained from being a victim of torture himself, is also an officially mandated expert on torture, what it is and where it's taking place.

Recently Mendez was interviewed by Australian reporter Mark Colvin. When asked if there was a question as to whether waterboarding is torture, Mendez answered:
I don't think there is any question, any serious question. I mean it's a question of severity. If you think that waterboarding is not severe mistreatment you don't really know what waterboarding is. But you know if just with the definition that it's designed to create a sensation of asphyxia, you can tell that it's severe. There's just no other way.

I mean if you then redefine upwards the severity standard to say that it's only severe if it's organ failure or death, then you know you're really very clearly distorting the sense of the words and you know words have to be interpreted in treaty language, they have to be interpreted in their plain meaning and their plain meaning couldn't be more clear in the case of waterboarding.
Then when asked if waterboarding is a war crime, he answered:
Well it can be depending on the situation in which it happens. I mean it's a war crime if it's in a battle field scenario. If, you know, the enemy soldier is arrested and instead of just allowing him to say name and serial number, as it were, you try to interrogate him under torture. Then of course it's a war crime. But in other circumstances, you know in law enforcement circumstances it's an international crime. Whether it's a war crime or crime against humanity it doesn't matter. The single act of torture is an international crime.
And then there's another problem with not prosecuting the torture. Mendez asks:
How are we going to tell a small country that it has the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish torture when states with all the wherewithal and all the ability and all the human resources and intelligence and skill to do this, decide not to do it?
Y'know like if Iran tortures someone then how can the US claim any sort of moral high ground to criticize when we're allowing a our own torturers to go unprosecuted?

Meanwhile, here's something you won't soon see on the fair and balanced Fox "News" channel:
Protesters called for George W. Bush to be arrested for his role in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as he opened his presidential library in Dallas.

Demonstrators staked hundreds of white crosses into the ground to represent troops killed in both wars and carried banners saying 'torture is illegal' and 'arrest Bush'.
Huh. I missed that even in the "Mainstream" American news. I wonder why.

Torture is an war crime. Bush allowed the torture. Prosecute the torture. Prosecute Bush.

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