Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Look! A missing white woman! George Michael is stoned!

What they won't tell you is that a report to the UN Human Rights Council by special rapporteur Paul Hunt (PDF) on the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay includes the following findings, which I've just plucked here and there from a melange of horrors:

23. The indefinite detention of prisoners of war and civilian internees for purposes of continued interrogation is inconsistent with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions. Information obtained from reliable sources and the interviews conducted by the special procedures mandate holders with former Guantánamo Bay detainees confirm, however, that the objective of the ongoing detention is not primarily to prevent combatants from taking up arms against the United States again, but to obtain information and gather intelligence on the Al-Qaida network.

24. The Chairperson of the Working Group and the Special Rapporteur note that, while United States Armed Forces continue to be engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan as well as in other countries, they are not currently engaged in an international armed conflict between two Parties to the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions. In the ongoing non-international armed conflicts involving United States forces, the lex specialis authorizing detention without respect for the guarantees set forth in article 9 of ICCPR therefore can no longer serve as a basis for that detention.

25. Many of the detainees held at Guantánamo Bay were captured in places where there was - at the time of their arrest - no armed conflict involving the United States. The case of the six men of Algerian origin detained in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 2001 is a well-known and well-documented example, but also numerous other detainees have been arrested under similar circumstances where international humanitarian law did not apply. The legal provision allowing the United States to hold belligerents without charges or access to counsel for the duration of hostilities can therefore not be invoked to justify their detention.

34. The right to a fair trial is recognized in article 14 of ICCPR, as well as articles 105 and 106 of the Third Geneva Convention and article 75 of the Additional Protocol I (this last article is considered to be declaratory of customary law).38 The fundamental principles of the right to a fair trial cannot be derogated from by any State, under any circumstances, as affirmed by the Human Rights Committee in its general comment No. 29.39 The Military Order recognizes the duty to “provide a full and fair trial”, but its provisions do not guarantee that right. . . .

42. Article 2 (2) of the Convention states that: “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.” The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is a non-derogable right, and therefore no exceptional circumstances may be invoked to justify derogation. The Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture have consistently emphasized the absolute character of the prohibition of torture and underlined that this prohibition cannot be derogated from in any circumstances, even in war or while fighting terrorism.

43. The prohibition of torture and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” is also contained in common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, to which the United States is a party. Moreover, the prohibition of torture is part of jus cogens. Torture and other inhumane acts causing severe pain or suffering, or serious injury to the body or to mental or physical health are also prohibited under international criminal law and in certain instances can amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.

44. The prohibition of torture provided by the relevant international standards, in particular the Convention against Torture, also encompasses the principle of non-refoulement (art. 3), the obligation to investigate alleged violations promptly and bring perpetrators to justice, the prohibition of incommunicado detention, and the prohibition of the use of evidence obtained under torture in legal proceedings.

53. Whereas it is conceivable that in the beginning the conditions of detention put in place were determined for reasons of order and security, they then seem to have been used to “counter resistance” and to cause stress. Moreover, they were closely linked with investigation techniques. There is plentiful evidence indicating that policies aimed at forcing detainees to cooperate such as withholding of clothes or of hygienic products, permanent light in the cells, no talking, cultural and religious harassment, sensory deprivation, intimidation, and the deliberate uncertainty generated by the indeterminate nature of confinement and the denial of access to independent tribunals, were used and led to serious mental health problems. Moreover, prolonged detention in Maximum Security Units clearly had the effect of putting pressure on detainees. Reports indicate that although 30 days of isolation was the maximum period permissible, detainees were put back in isolation after very short breaks, so that they were in quasi-isolation for up to 18 months. According to the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee, prolonged solitary confinement and similar measures aimed at causing stress violate the right of detainees under article 10 (1) ICCPR to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and might also amount to inhuman treatment in violation of article 7 ICCPR.71

55. There have been consistent reports about the practice of rendition and forcible return of Guantánamo detainees to countries where they are at serious risk of torture. An example is the transfer of Mr. Al Qadasi to Yemen in April 2004. He has since been visited by his lawyer and international NGOs. According to his lawyer, he was not warned about his imminent return to Yemen and therefore had no possibility to appeal. In early April he received an injection against his will, which led to loss of consciousness and hallucinations. When he woke up several days later, he found himself in prison in Sana’a, where he alleges he was beaten and deprived of food. On the basis of the information available to him, the Special Rapporteur takes the view that the United States practice of “extraordinary rendition” constitutes a violation of article 3 of the Convention against Torture and article 7 of ICCPR.78

71. Reports indicate that the treatment of detainees since their arrests, and the conditions of their confinement, have had profound effects on the mental health of many of them. The treatment and conditions include the capture and transfer of detainees to an undisclosed overseas location, sensory deprivation and other abusive treatment during transfer; detention in cages without proper sanitation and exposure to extreme temperatures; minimal exercise and hygiene; systematic use of coercive interrogation techniques; long periods of solitary confinement; cultural and religious harassment; denial of or severely delayed communication with family; and the uncertainty generated by the indeterminate nature of confinement and denial of access to independent tribunals. These conditions have led in some instances to serious mental illness, over 350 acts of self-harm in 2003 alone, individual and mass suicide attempts and widespread, prolonged hunger strikes. The severe mental health consequences are likely to be long term in many cases, creating health burdens on detainees and their families for years to come.

75. The Special Rapporteur has received reports, many confirmed by investigations of
the United States military,115 that health professionals in Guantánamo Bay have systematically violated widely accepted ethical standards set out in the United Nations Principles of Medical Ethics and the Declaration of Tokyo, in addition to well-established rules on medical confidentiality. Alleged violations include: (a) breaching confidentiality by sharing medical records or otherwise disclosing health information for purposes of interrogation; (b) participating in, providing advice for or being present during interrogations;117 and (c) being present during or engaging in non-consensual treatment, including drugging and force-feeding.118 In sum, reports indicate that some health professionals have been complicit in abusive treatment of detainees detrimental to their health. Such unethical conduct violates the detainees’ right to health, as well as the duties of health professionals arising from the right to health.

But see, Dr. Hunt doesn't understand the terrorist enemy we're facing. Or, come to think of it, maybe he understands the terrorist enemy all too well.

But this obviously is not worthy of any attention in the United States -- why should Americans care what a bunch of damn foreigners think about us? Otherwise we would have read about this in the New York Times.

ADDENDUM:According to the memoir of a close associate of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, George W. Bush said to Chrétien "If I catch anyone who leaks in my government, I would like to string them up by the thumbs -- the same way we do with prisoners in Guantanamo." Bet you didn't read that in your home town fishwrapper either. Feel a little frisson, perhaps? (via Digby)

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