Category: Torture


A photo taken from a book assembled to commemorate the life of Gul Rahman, the only man known to have died in the CIA’s torture programme [Courtesy Dr. Ghairat Baheer]

“There is a proverb that a human being is stronger than a stone and more tender than a flower.” – Habib Rahman, brother of Gul Rahman (Prisoner #24) who died in CIA custody

Just days after the 9/11 attacks, US President George W Bush authorised the CIA to begin covertly detaining people it suspected of being terrorists. Within the year, Department of Justice lawyers provided the first set of memos that would draw a legal line between so-called “enhanced interrogation” and torture. Up to that point, secret imprisonment was considered a violation of human rights.

While I was starving, near freezing, naked and cut off from my family, my torturers would keep me awake for days…. From all the beatings, I learned that sleep meant pain.

Ammar al-Baluchi, victim of the CIA torture programme

CIA black sites were set up all over the world, and suspected terrorists were rendered, detained and subjected to brutal abuses: sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, auditory overload, rectal rehydration, waterboarding and stress positions, as well as other forms of treatment designed to humiliate and degrade.

The torture years continued for nearly a decade until, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order putting an end to the practice.

In December 2014, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released what is now known as the “Torture Report”, the 500-page executive summary of a roughly 6,700-page still-classified investigation. The abridged version was declassified despite fierce objections from the CIA, some Republicans and even the White House.

It revealed that the programme was not only more brutal than the CIA had let on for years, but also ineffective – suggesting that the agency had wilfully misrepresented its tactics’ usefulness to policymakers and the public. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoamn of the Intelligence Committee, a Democratic senator from California who has supported the agency in the past, concluded that: “Under any common meaning of the term, CIA detainees were tortured.”

Source: The dark prisoners: Inside the CIA’s torture programme – Al Jazeera English

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe torture can be justified to extract information from suspected terrorists, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, a level of support similar to that seen in countries like Nigeria where militant attacks are common.

The poll reflects a U.S. public on edge after the massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino in December and large-scale attacks in Europe in recent months, including a bombing claimed by the militant group Islamic State last week that killed at least 32 people in Belgium.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has forcefully injected the issue of whether terrorism suspects should be tortured into the election campaign.

Trump has said he would seek to roll back President Barack Obama’s ban on waterboarding – an interrogation technique that simulates drowning that human rights groups contend is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. Trump has also vowed to “bring back a hell of a lot worse” if elected.

Trump’s stance has drawn broad criticism from human rights organizations, world bodies, and political rivals. But the poll findings suggest that many Americans are aligned with Trump on the issue, although the survey did not ask respondents to define what they consider torture.

“The public right now is coping with a host of negative emotions,” said Elizabeth Zechmeister, a Vanderbilt University professor who has studied the link between terrorist threats and public opinion. “Fear, anger, general anxiety: (Trump) gives a certain credibility to these feelings,” she said.

The March 22-28 online poll asked respondents if torture can be justified “against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism.” About 25 percent said it is “often” justified while another 38 percent it is “sometimes” justified. Only 15 percent said torture should never be used.

 

Source: Exclusive – Most Americans support torture against terror suspects: Reuters/Ipsos poll | Reuters

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