Wednesday, July 06, 2005

On Torture and the Geneva Conventions

The buzz of the liberals in my local paper continues. One of today's letters regards US "torture" at Guantanamo Bay. I'd like to address this issue.

The letter in question is about the "dangers" of American policy on "torture." Apparently, the US is treating prisoners differently than the Geneva Conventions require. Has this person actually read the Geneva Conventions? First, many of these captured fighters do not qualify as POWs because they do not wear identifying uniforms and they break the rules of war (i.e. purposeful targetting of civilians). Thus, defined as "unlawful combatants," the Geneva Conventions have little else to say about this. In any regards, even if they were POWs, the Geneva Conventions do not define torture (so any argument that the US is "redifining" torture is absurd).

Additionally, the Geneva Conventions deny dentention authorities the right to use any form of coercion to get information from a POW. This is why it is so important that these people be defined as "unlawful combatants." Many are members of international terrorist agencies. How else does one prevent their next attack?

In any case, the relevant article one might wish to reference is the UN Convention Against Torture. In this case, article I states:

For the purposes of this Convention, 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.

Do current US interrogation methods inflict "severe pain or suffering"? From what I've heard about methods at Camp X-ray, it does not. But others may see it differently. That's why such definitions are often unsuitable.

In fact, the US does right be "redifining" torture, because this Convention calls for parties to "keep under systematic review interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices as well as arrangements for the custody and treatment of persons subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment in any territory under its jurisdiction, with a view to preventing any cases of torture."

Now, this convention does deny states the right to ship a person off to another nation where "there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." On this note, the US is in error, as I've been hearing in the news that we've been capturing suspects and sending them for "interrogation" in countries with less than reputable records. The US is in the wrong on this note and should cease such action immediately.

From what I can gather, unfortunately, the US is not a member to this convention. But let's not split hairs. If you compare the treatment of US prisoners to some other countries who are also not signatories of this convention, then you understand that there is simply no comparison.

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