International law is clear and unequivocal. Torture is illegal at all times, under all circumstances with no allowed exceptions.
It violates constitutional protections. They include the 8th Amendment’s guarantee against “cruel and unusual punishments.”
Treaties America signed prohibit torture and other forms of ill-treatment. They’re binding under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
“….all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Earlier Supreme Court rulings condemned force and other forms of ill-treatment amounting to torture. They include harsh interrogations, threats, sleep and food deprivation, prolonged isolation, whipping, slapping, beatings, and other forms of abuse.
Laws prohibiting torture are jus cogens. They’re higher, compelling laws. No nation may pass legislation permitting it. No courts may justify it. Jus cogens prohibitions allow no immunity from criminal liability.
On April 16, The New York Times headlined “US Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes,” saying:
The Constitution Project’s (CP) “sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been ‘the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.’ “
It’s “indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.”
CP’s report is titled “Task Force on Detainee Treatment.” It followed “two years of intensive study, investigation and deliberation.”
It was undertaken “to provide an accurate and authoritative account of how the United States treated people its forces held in custody as the nation mobilized to deal with a global terrorist threat.”
“The events examined in this report are unprecedented in US history.”
“In the course of the nation’s many previous conflicts, there is little doubt that some US personnel committed brutal acts against captives, as have armies and governments throughout history.”
Nothing matched post-9/11 policies. They were authorized at the highest levels of government. Bush, Cheney and others around them did so.
Despite this extraordinary aspect, the Obama administration declined, as a matter of policy, to undertake or commission an official study of what happened, saying it was ‘unproductive’ to ‘look backwards’ rather than forward.
Courts, including the nation’s highest, largely looked the other way. Instead of condemning war on terror lawlessness, they did little judicially to stop it.
On June 11, the Supreme Court denied certiorati for seven Guantanamo detainees. Doing so violated the Constitution’s Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2. It states:
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public safety may require it.
CP’s report said it’s “indisputable” that America practices torture. The nation’s highest officials bear full responsibility. What began earlier continues. Torture is globalized. Snatch and grab is policy.
In Afghanistan, dozens of abductions occur monthly. Imprisonment and torture follow. Guantanamo represents America’s public face. It’s the tip of the iceberg. It symbolizes US lawlessness.
Dozens of “black sites” operate globally. They do so extrajudicially. They do it out of sight and mind. “Enhanced interrogation techniques” became code language for torture and other forms of abuse.
Suspects are snatched and disappeared. Foreign governments are complicit. What began under Clinton intensified under Bush. Obama continues the worst of his practices.
CP discussed the following topics:
- Detention at Guantanamo
- Washington’s Post-9/11 “Legal Process”
- Rendition and “black sites”
- Medical professionals’ involvement in detention and interrogation practices
- True and false confessions – most are forcibly extracted
- Effects and consequences of US policies
- The Obama administration
- The role of Congress
Guilt at the highest levels of government is shared. They include the executive, congressional and judicial branches. The CIA and Pentagon are complicit. Torture and other forms of abuse became official policy. It remains so extrajudicially.
America crossed the line. CP called doing so unjustifiable. It violated fundamental rule of law principles. It damaged the nation’s standing. It’s legally, morally and ethically compromised.
It “reduced our capacity to convey moral censure. (It) potentially increased the danger to US military personnel taken captive.”
On April 14, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel explained his ordeal. “Gitmo is killing me,” he said. He’s been there 11 years and three months.
He threatens no one. He committed no crime. He hasn’t been charged or tried. He never should have been abducted in the first place. He should have been released long ago.
Military officials said he was a “guard” for bin Laden. Samir called saying so “nonsense.” He thinks his captors no longer believe it. “But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either,” he explained.
He remains because Yemeni prisoners aren’t sent home. “This makes no sense,” said Samir. “I am a human being, not a passport, and I deserve to be treated like one.”
He’s aged 35. He wants to go home and see his family. He wants one of his own. Conditions are “desperate,” he said. Detainees are suffering horrifically. There’s no end in sight to their imprisonment.
He and around 130 others are hunger striking for justice. He’s being force-fed. He described the ordeal. He’s bound hands and feet to his bed.
An IV is forcibly inserted into his hand. He spent 26 hours this way “tied to his bed.” He was denied permission to go to the toilet. He wasn’t allowed to pray.
He’ll “never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up (his) nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way,” he said.
As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.
During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily.
I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not.
It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me.
As they were finishing, some of the ‘food’ spilled on my clothes. I asked them to change my clothes, but the guard refused to allow me to hold on to this last shred of my dignity.
He hopes because of what all detainees suffer, “the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantanamo before it’s too late.”