From Amnesty International: Background on Torture Amendment


The notorious photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq demonstrate that U.S. personnel have been responsible for acts of torture and other forms of abuse, in violation of the US commitments to uphold international law. Amnesty International has interviewed former detainees who were held in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo who also reported being subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment during interrogation and detention.


Last year, President Bush stated that, “torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere” and that “the United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and [is] leading this fight by example.”  The torture and ill-treatment of Iraqi detainees at the hands of US personnel runs contrary to these words.  As the world watches the US Government’s response to the evidence of torture and ill-treatment in Iraq, it is imperative that the United States reaffirm its obligations under US and international law. 


The United States agreed to a prohibition on torture and ill-treatment when it became a party to the Geneva Conventions, International Covenant to Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture. Through ratification of these conventions, the United States vowed that no person in US custody anywhere in the world would be subjected to the “cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the 5th, 8th, and/or 14th Amendments to the Constitution” of the United States.


The commander of the US forces in Iraq has now imposed a general bar (although there is a concession if they get specific permission) against interrogators using some so-called "stress and duress" techniques, including prolonged sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, stress positions, and use of dogs. These are techniques that the Committee on Torture and others determined to be in violation of the international prohibition on torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.


The international community must know clearly that the United States is committed to the longstanding prohibitions to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. It is imperative that the Durbin Torture Amendment receives strong bipartisan support to make clear that the US Government is committed to the rule of law and the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide. 


Reprinted by TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime