Special Rapporteur on Torture’s Report to UN General Assembly Indicts Human Self-Interest

By Janet Phelan

In his report to the General Assembly of the UN on October 15, Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer delivered an incisive and damning indictment of the human propensity for self-deception and denial, citing these attributes as contributing to the prevalence of torture. He discussed how these innate propensities paved the way for denial that torture was taking place and for compartmentalization of one’s own participation in hurting other people. While applauding the normative structure of society and law in terms of “official” prohibitions against torture, Melzer unequivocally stated that these structures were not sufficient in stopping torture, given the human tendency towards self-interest and self-protection, and discussed how this tendency rears up in fear-based societies.

Melzer’s report stated:

The root cause of the systemic governance failure is not a lack of expertise, resources or normative consensus, nor generalized malicious intent, but lies in generic biopsychosocial factors that have shaped human decision-making throughout history, irrespective of national, cultural, religious or other distinctive influences. (Report A/75/179 – E – A/75/179)

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Referring to the growing concerns about the “national security” state, he declares that “The need to defend against threats to individual or public security is the predominant utilitarian basis upon which torture and ill-treatment are justified. One can see where the threats inherent first in the attacks of September 11 and now in the “public health emergency” of the pandemic would provide sufficient basis for the preconditions for torture cited here.”

As he stated in the call out for submissions,

The….report aims to demonstrate that torture and other forms of ill-treatment cannot be effectively eradicated in any governance system failing to fully acknowledge and rigorously mitigate the corrosive effect of such psychosocial dynamics through normative, institutional and policy measures ensuring full transparency and strict accountability for all exercise of governmental power.

In producing this report, Melzer has essentially made a strong indictment of human consciousness and delved into the darkness which has resulted not only in the well-established Hitlerian and Stalinesque atrocities of the 20th century, but also those which are continuing on, unabated, under a smoother set of protocols, wherein the need for “protection” from bogeymen and bogeyviruses is cited as sufficient rationale for the widespread practice of torture. In so doing, he joins a growing list of authors, social psychologists and ethicists who have explored the human tendency towards self- deception and self- gratification, and how these tendencies result in horrific abuses. Stanley Milgram’s experiments on “obedience to authority,” Howard Bloom’s book, The Lucifer Principle and even Scott Peck’s theological treatise, The People of the Lie, have also explored the roots of human on human abuse and have come up with disturbing conclusions about the very heart of humanity.

At the end of this most recent report, Melzer provided a list of recommendations to address this human proclivity to harm other humans. His recommendations included an abolition of secrecy, so that practices would become transparent. He recommended also that reports of wrongdoing be promptly investigated by the authorities, not covered up.

Matthew Olmsted, delegate from the US State Department, responded to Melzer’s report by stating that the US is leading the world in efforts to eradicate torture. Olmsted also denied Melzer’s previously published claims that Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were victims of torture. It should be noted that Olmsted’s assertions have a certain legalistic basis. In fact, US law defines torture as occurring outside the borders of the US. There is no acknowledgment that torture exists in the US and US law excludes those who claim they were tortured by the US within the borders of the US from any torture rehabilitation services.

Melzer is no stranger to controversy. In March of this year, Nils Melzer broke significant new ground through his report discussing electronics as a vehicle for torture. Coining the term “cybertorture” he declared that “Cybertechnology can also be used to inflict, or contribute to, severe mental suffering while avoiding the conduit of the physical body, most notably through intimidation, harassment, surveillance, public shaming and defamation, as well as appropriation, deletion or manipulation of information.

Already harassment in comparatively limited environments can expose targeted individuals to extremely elevated and prolonged levels of anxiety, stress, social isolation and depression, and significantly increases the risk of suicide.

The response from the “targeted individual” community was immediate and massive. People from all walks of life, claiming attack by electronic weapons, flooded the Special Rapporteur’s office with reports as to how “cybertorture” was evidencing in their own lives. In a subsequent call out for reports, Melzer asked for input on psychosocial dynamics conducive to torture and ill treatment and again received hundreds of personal statements from individuals in the US and other parts of the world bearing witness to their experience with “cybertorture.”

The “targeted individual” community has faced a number of challenges in getting positive recognition of its claims. Even in the face of such well researched articles as published by Project Censored and Activist Post claims of being assaulted by invisible weapons have largely been either ignored or pilloried by mainstream media. The fact that these claims were discussed in Melzer’s February report has provided a groundbreaking level of validation.

Also validating have been the recent news articles concerning diplomats in Cuba and China incurring attacks by electronic weapons. CIA operatives have now joined the growing list of those who claim assault by energy weapons.

According to one self-styled journalist who states he met with Nils Melzer in Geneva, the Special Rapporteur told him he was going to take on cybertorture in subsequent reports. Magnus Olsson subsequently launched a series of reports, both in writing and on the air, promising the community of individuals who claim they are being attacked with directed energy weapons, microwave and other electronic technology, that Melzer would deliver a report to the UN on October 15th concerning his investigation of these technologies. Along the way, he was joined by a Liliana Delucca, who states she worked for the UN for twenty-five years, in promising UN action on this highly controversial issue. Olsson is President of the European Coalition Against Cybertorture and Liliana Delucca is listed as an “advisor.”

Among the promises made by Olsson and Delucca were the following:

– That the UN would pass “new laws” to prohibit cybertorture (the UN does not pass laws).

– That an international police force would be set up to investigate these crimes.

– That Nils Melzer was in fact cooperating with Interpol concerning these crimes.

When Melzer’s October 15 report to the UN General Assembly did not mention cybertorture at all, this reporter contacted his office for comment.

Melzer’s assistant, Koat Aleer, responded as follows:

ALEER Koat <kaleer@ohchr.org>
To: Janet Phelan, COLVILLE Rupert
Cc:Michael Edwards
Tue, Oct 20 at 2:19 AM
Dear Janet,
We are not conducting at this point any investigation on cyber torture. The reference being made may perhaps be in reference to the SR’s report on psychological torture where there is mention of new technologies being used however this report is already published and presented to the HRC in March this year.

This email has produced a barrage of denunciations from the EU Coalition Against Cybertorture, accusing this reporter of “unprofessionalism” in seeking comment from Melzer’s office, “trying to deceive and harass people” as well as “interfering in a criminal investigation.” This reporter has repeatedly stated to the Coalition that no confidential information about specific investigations or cases is sought.

The EU Coalition Against Cybertorture has been asked to provide any evidence, any correspondence with Nils Melzer indicating that he is indeed conducting any investigation into cybertorture. At the time of going to press, no such evidence has been received.

Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking exposé, EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad. You are invited to support her work on Buy Me A Coffee here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/JanetPhelan

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