Torturing Prisoners in the War on Terror Is Never Justified
"Torturing Prisoners in the War on Terror Is Never Justified."At Issue: How Should the United States Treat Prisoners in the War on Terror?. Lauri S. Friedman. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2005. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. Kenneth Roth, "Time to 'Stop Stress and Duress,'" Washington Post, May 13, 2004, p. A29. Copyright © 2004 by the Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group. Reproduced by permission of the author. Kenneth Roth is the executive director of Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending human rights around the world. Torture should never be used to extract information from terrorist suspects. The United States is bound to international treaties and conventions that explicitly prohibit any form of torture. Moreover, suspects who are tortured do not tend to yield accurate or reliable information, as they are likely to say anything simply to make the interrogation end. In addition, because attempts to regulate torture tacitly encourage its use, they only contribute to more mistreatment. Ultimately, the use of torture is morally wrong. The sexual humiliation of [Iraqi] prisoners [by U.S. soldiers] at Abu Ghraib prison [in Iraq] is so shocking that it risks overshadowing other U.S. interrogation practices that are also reprehensible. And unlike the sexual abuse, these other practices have been sanctioned by the highest levels of government and are probably more widespread. The Abu Ghraib outrages are not simply the product of a small group of sick and misguided soldiers. They are the predictable result of the Bush administration's policy of permitting "stress and duress" interrogation techniques. The sexual abuse of prisoners, despicable as it is, is a logical consequence of a system put in place after [the terrorist attacks of] Sept. 11, 2001, to ratchet up the pain, discomfort and humiliation of prisoners under interrogation.
"None of These Techniques Is Legal"
The Defense Department has adopted a 72-point "matrix" of types of stress to which detainees can be subjected. These include stripping detainees naked, depriving them of sleep, subjecting them to bright lights or blaring noise, hooding them, exposing them to heat and cold, and binding them in uncomfortable positions. The more stressful techniques must be approved by senior commanders, but all are permitted. And nearly all are being used, according to testimony taken by [the human rights organization] Human Rights Watch from post- Sept. 11 detainees released from U.S. custody. None of these techniques is legal. Treaties ratified by the United States, including the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture, prohibit not only torture but also "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." In ratifying the Convention Against Torture, the U.S. government interpreted this provision to prohibit the same practices as those proscribed by the U.S. Constitution. The Bush administration reiterated that understanding [in] June . In other words, just as U.S. courts repeatedly have found it unconstitutional for interrogators in American police stations to use these third-degree methods, it is illegal under international law for U.S. interrogators in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay [Cuba, where terror suspects are held] or elsewhere to employ them. U.S. military manuals ban these "stress and duress" techniques, and federal law condemns them as war crimes. Yet the Bush administration has authorized them.
Torture Is Always Wrong
But doesn't the extraordinary threat of terrorism demand this extraordinary response? No. The prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment is absolute and unconditional, in peace or in war. This dehumanizing practice is always wrong. Moreover, resorting to abusive interrogation is counterproductive. People under torture will say anything, true or...
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