Monday, December 1, 2008

The United Nations Convention Against Torture

In the mid-1980s, probably around the same time that Ronald Reagan was ignoring the constitution and the Senate and was getting ready to forget that he was providing weapons to the Nicaraguan death squads, the bffs of Ollie Stone, the United Nations was adopting a Convention Against Torture, which was later ratified by the Reagan folks with lots of qualifications and other efforts to water it down. Of course the Reagan administration was itself participating in the torture of others in Central America, so they couldn't quite wholeheartedly endorse the concept of eliminating torture from the world.

Nonetheless, the Convention Against Torture is very explicit that no country may engage in torture or allow it to be done within any territory in their jurisdiction. Further, if they learn of anything that sounds like torture, the countries must conduct investigations and stop it. In addition, they must include instructions to all police and military making clear that neither torture nor any other form of cruel and unusual punishment may be utilized.

If a person is accused of having conducted torture, and let's say that person is living the good life inside the U.S., the United States government is legally obligated to arrest the accused and hold them, and either conduct the necessary investigation and trial of the allegations, or turn the person over to another nation that is willing to do so. So how about it George W. Bush: why don't you arrest someone?

So how can Congress simply ignore their legal obligations to arrest and try every person who has been accused of torture?

Remember when Bush first took control of this country, and he appointed that fan of central American death squads John Bolton to go to the U.N. -- to destroy the U.N., to attempt to shut it down. We immediately heard lots of talk about the U.S. withdrawing, refusing to provide funds, refusing to even appear at a anniversary, completely minimizing the role of the U.N. We've even heard some of the neo-fascists talk about some "new" international group that should be established. These people do not want any organization with authority to speak out publicly against the torture and murder that they had planned, and which they eventually carried out.

Oh yeah -- that whole "extraordinary rendition" thing -- the kidnapping of people from their own country and dragging them to other countries, along with the torture and sometimes murder, or turning the kidnap victims over to countries known to torture and murder -- that's illegal too.

Dooo-nnnnn-yyyy, we've got some questions for you. Complicity or participation is enough to support prosecution. Oh yeah, and big legal brain-man scholar academic John Yoo: you're wrong. You're slimey and pathetic for supporting Bush in his desire to torture. But you're also just plain flat-out wrong. Hey Alberto: you know that whole sicko theory you pulled out of your elbow that it's not torture unless the person is pretty much dead -- wrong again.

I love Article 2 paragraphs 2 and 3, which directly contradict the entire Bush death squad theory about why it's okay for them to torture:

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

If Congress won't do this, then the public should demand an independent prosecutor begin public hearings about torture conducted by the United States against people of other nations in violation of this and other treaties. More specifically, we need to know the name of every person who participated, directed, authorized, ratified, consented to the practice; all the facts about every single person who was picked up, kidnapping, tortured; who was killed, when, by whom, and what happened to their bodies; the identity of every person who participated in lies, deceit, fraud, and cover-up of these criminal activities; and every single thing that was done to any person which arguably constitutes torture or cruel and inhumane treatment. Oh yeah -- how many children did we torture, and did we kill any of them? Then we need to prosecute and send people to prison. Then we need to have a civil tribunal for victims and their survivors to present claims for compensation.

I've excerpted a few portions, but the whole text can be found at this link:

[United Nations] Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984 entry into force 26 June 1987, in accordance with article 27.

The States Parties to this Convention ... Having regard to article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Having regard also to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975, ... [agree]

Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, 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 from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions. ....

Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 3
1. 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. ...

Article 4
1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.
2. Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.

Article 6
1. Upon being satisfied, after an examination of information available to it, that the circumstances so warrant, any State Party in whose territory a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is present shall take him into custody or take other legal measures to ensure his presence. The custody and other legal measures shall be as provided in the law of that State but may be continued only for such time as is necessary to enable any criminal or extradition proceedings to be instituted. ....

Article 7
1. The State Party in the territory under whose jurisdiction a person alleged to have committed any offence referred to in article 4 is found shall in the cases contemplated in article 5, if it does not extradite him, submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

Article 8
1. The offences referred to in article 4 shall be deemed to be included as extraditable offences in any extradition treaty existing between States Parties. States Parties undertake to include such offences as extraditable offences in every extradition treaty to be concluded between them. ...

Article 9
1. States Parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with criminal proceedings brought in respect of any of the offences referred to in article 4, including the supply of all evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings.
2. States Parties shall carry out their obligations under paragraph I of this article in conformity with any treaties on mutual judicial assistance that may exist between them.

Article 12
Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.

Article 15
Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.

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