Torture and Detention

Frequently Asked Questions (scroll down for article archives and further resources)

"If anyone acts like they don't know their government is torturing people on a widespread and systematic scale, they are choosing NOT to know. We have to continue to lead people to act against this -- going out to people, into classes, to institutions, and on worldcantwait.org. Too many people have learned to accept this, there is not nearly enough opposition to the revelations about these top level torture meetings -- but this is something that can change quickly if a beginning core acts with moral clarity..." -Debra Sweet, Director of World Can't Wait

Indefinite Detention and Torture Under ObamaDownload this flier

Torture + Silence = Complicity!

Act Now to Stop Torture!

Has Obama put an end to torture, rendition, and indefinite detention? Facts you need to know:

1. Obama admits Bush officials tortured, but refuses to prosecute them.

Cheney has bragged about authorizing water boarding of detainees. In January 2009, Obama told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, that he believed water boarding was torture. Torture is a violation of Geneva Conventions. The Obama administration is, therefore, not only morally, but legally, required to prosecute Bush Regime officials for torture.

2. Under Obama, the U.S. is still holding detainees without charges or trial.

During the campaign Obama declared habeas corpus to be “the foundation of Anglo-American law.”Habeas corpus is your right to challenge your detention. It is a 900-year- old right. Without habeas corpus there are no restraints on a government’s powers to detain and punish.

Contrary to his rhetoric, the Obama administration is continuing the Bush Regime’s policies of denying prisoners habeas corpus rights and has even adopted the same arguments made by Bush. In February 2009, the Obama administration declared in Federal Court that it would not grant habeas corpus rights to detainees in U.S. custody in Bagram, Afghanistan.

In March 2009 Obama’s Justice Department claimed that Guantanamo prisoners who were detained before June 2008 had no habeas corpus rights. On May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

3. Don’t be fooled just because Obama isn’t using the term “enemy combatant”

The Obama administration will no longer use the term “enemy combatant,” but it’s a change in name only: in the same court filing in which it made this announcement, Obama’s Justice Department made clear that it would continue to detain prisoners at Guantanamo without charge. As the NY Times put it:

[T]he [Obama] Justice Department argued that the president has the authority to detain terrorism suspects there without criminal charges, much as the Bush administration had asserted. It provided a broad definition of those who can be held, which was not significantly different from the one used by the Bush administration.

Meanwhile, Obama’s executive orders do not ban indefinite detention. In addition, at his confirmation hearing, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder said: “There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country… We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.” Holder suggested prisoners could be detained for the length of their war of terror which, as we know, has no set end point.

4. Guantanamo is still open. The prison at Bagram is growing and torture is being committed.

According to Reuters, abuse of prisoners worsened shortly after the election of Obama:

Abuses began to pick up in December 2008 after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.”

Earlier this year Scott Horton reported in Harper’s Magazine on three murders of detainees in 2006 at Guantanamo that the military tried to cover up as suicides. More is coming out about torture at Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. Recently Andy Worthington reported on the detention and torture of three teenagers in his article, “Torture and the ‘Black’Prison,” or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One).”

On June 7, 2010 Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque wrote that under the Bush Regime medical personnel experimented on detainees to prove that the techniques used did not constitute torture. The chilling history of Nazi medical experimentation on those in concentration camps lurks in this revelation. (http://chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/1976- echoes-of-mengele-medical-experiments-torture-and- continuity-in-the-american-gulag.html)

This is a violation of Geneva Conventions and there is evidence that these experiments are going on under Obama.

5. Obama is continuing rendition.

During his confirmation hearing, new CIA director Leon Panetta made it clear the Obama administration will continue rendition. Rendition is the practice of kidnapping somebody in one country and shipping them to another country for detention. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), said “Rendition is a violation of sovereignty. It’s a kidnapping. It’s force and violence…Once you open the door to rendition, you’re opening the door, essentially, to a lawless world.”

Obama supporters have attempted to draw the distinction between this practice and “extraordinary rendition,” defined as the practice of transferring somebody to another country knowing that they will be tortured. During his confirmation hearing, Leon Panetta said that under the Bush administration, “There were efforts by the CIA to seek and to receive assurances that those individuals would not be mistreated.” So Panetta is embracing the practices of the Bush Regime by continuing rendition!

Panetta then added, “I will seek the same kind of assurances that those individuals will not be mistreated.” (emphasis added)

Articles on Torture and Detention:

No Blood, No Foul

...an official policy of impunity: “If you don’t make them bleed, they can’t prosecute for it.”

By Scott Horton

In the period immediately following the publication in 2004 of photographs from Abu Ghraib, the Department of Defense pledged to fully investigate every allegation of prisoner mistreatment. By 2006, the department was asserting that it had opened some 842 inquiries or investigations. The reports it went on to produce were as thorough and professional as possible under the circumstances, but only a handful resulted in further action. Moreover, their existence obscured the relationship between the alleged abuses and Pentagon policymakers.

Read more...

Deconstructing the Campaign to Malign Award-Winning Article on Guantanamo "Suicides"


A guard tower overlooks the prison at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on June 8, 2010. On June 10, 2006, three Guantanamo detainees allegedly committed suicide. (Photo: Richard Perry / The New York Times)

By Jeffrey Kaye

While not the first article attacking Scott Horton's controversial Harpers' article [3], "The Guantanamo Suicides," Alex Koppelman's critique in Adweek [4] on May 23 capped a long campaign by some media figures to impugn the veracity of Horton's investigation, if not the integrity of both Horton and Harper's Magazine.

Horton's article in January 2010 strongly criticized the Department of Defense (DoD) investigations into the June 10, 2006, deaths of three Guantanamo detainees, bringing forth new eyewitness testimony as to what occurred that terrible evening at the camp, calling into question the official narrative. For their part, Guantanamo authorities immediately labeled these deaths suicides. Rear Adm. Harry Harris, the commander at Guantanamo, called [5] the deaths a day after they occurred "an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

Read more...

War Criminal Brought to Justice

By Chris Floyd 

Last week the newswires began crackling with reports that a major war criminal – a psychopathic thug said to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing – had been apprehended.

Naturally, I expected to see George Bush or David Petraeus or Stanley McChrystal or Don Rumsfeld or Nouri al-Maliki being perp-walked to a paddy wagon for their roles in the furious campaign of ethnic cleansing that characterized the murderous “surge” in Iraq. (Yes, the same campaign that Peace Laureate Barack Obama once called “an extraordinary achievement.”)

Read more...

The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin

By Andy Worthington

Despite sweeping into office promising to close Guantánamo, President Obama now oversees a prison that may well stay open forever, from which the only exit route is in a coffin.

The last living prisoner to be released from Guantánamo was Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, an Algerian who was repatriated against his will in January. Since then, an Afghan prisoner, Awal Gul, died in February after taking exercise, and on Wednesday the US military announced that another Afghan prisoner, Inayatullah, who was 37 years old, “died of an apparent suicide,” early on the morning of May 18.

Read more...

Torture is Never Legal

The prohibition against torture is unequivocal, regardless of the circumstances.

By Marjorie Cohn

The assassination of Osama bin Laden has rekindled the discourse about the efficacy and legality of using torture in the “war on terror.” Torture is illegal under all circumstances, even in wartime. Moreover, the United States located Bin Laden with traditional interrogation methods over several years, not by the use of torture.

When the United States ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, it became part of U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says treaties are the supreme law of the land. The Torture Convention states, “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 prohibition against torture is unequivocal, regardless of the circumstances.

Read more...

Fire, Disbar And Prosecute Yoo -- and All Torture Lawyers!

Berkeley Protests John YooThis statement is being distributed today at the UC Berkeley commencement by the SF Bay Area Chapter of World Can't Wait

Especially now in the wake of the last 2 weeks' events, with John Yoo taking a lead media role to defend torture “BECAUSE IT WORKED!” – all people of conscience in this country, including here at UC Berkeley, must reject this dangerous lie, and speak out.

As noted commentator Glenn Greenwald wrote: "There's clearly an attempt underway by the political (and media) class to rehabilitate the Bush torture regime, which is why it is more important than ever to make clear that torture is never justifiable no matter what it produces."

Read more...

New Study: Guantanamo Doctors Neglected, Concealed Evidence of Torture

 
Just as WikiLeaks is revealing details of the regime of torture, coercion and bribery that was required to create what purported to be evidence at Guantánamo, the peer-reviewed journal journal PloS Medicine published a research article, “Neglect of Medical Evidence of Torture in Guantánamo Bay: A Case Series,” written by Vincent Iacopino, a senior medical advisor to Physicians for Human Rights, and Stephen Xenakis, a retired US Army Brigadier General, examining the cases of nine former prisoners, “all of whom,” as they say, “alleged torture and ill treatment during detention at the facility.”
 
As an editorial explains, the authors “scrutinized medical records, client affidavits, attorney-client notes and summaries, and legal declarations of medical experts for evidence of torture and ill treatment,” and where such evidence existed, they “assessed whether medical personnel … had either documented or treated symptoms arising from torture.”

Read more...

The Guantanamo Files

By Margaret Kimberley Guantanamo

It is difficult to keep writing about the perfidy inflicted on this country and the world by the United States government. The list of outrages is a very long one and keeps getting longer. One risks repeating ones self endlessly in attempting to expose all that should be brought to light. It is also difficult to keep writing about the role played by Barack Obama in upholding the nation’s history of institutionalized criminality.

His historic win, his well marketed campaign which depicted him as an agent of change, allow him to get away with wrongdoing that would have merited some degree of criticism for his predecessor George W. Bush. However, if the truth isn’t told, there will be no record of opposition to America’s corruption, and that would only magnify the enormity of the crimes.

Read more...

Guantanamo Doctors Hid Evidence of Torture

By Spencer Ackerman  Bad Doctors

They explained away the bone fractures, didn’t ask what caused the lacerations, and called the hallucinations routine. Rather than blowing the whistle, medical professionals entrusted with the care of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay turned a blind eye when there were clear indications of abuse.

That’s according to a newly published report from two physicians with unprecedented access to the medical records of nine Gitmo detainees.

Writing in the online journal PLoS Medicine, Physicians for Human Rights senior medical adviser Vincent Iacopino and retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist now in private practice, found that medical personnel at Guantanamo concealed mental and physical ailments that signaled abusive treatment.

Read more...

The Hidden Horrors of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo Files

By Andy Worthington 

WikiLeaks’ latest revelations — secret military files on almost all of the 779 prisoners held in the US “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — are already causing a stir, and for good reason, as they resuscitate a story that appears to have been forgotten in the last few years: how, in their rush to prove themselves tough and vengeful in response to the 9/11 attacks, the most senior officials in the Bush administration not only discarded international laws and treaties including the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture, but also threw out safeguards designed to protect innocent people from being wrongly imprisoned in wartime.

Read more...

About

World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.