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During the past weeks the confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Micheal Mukasey have shed important light on exactly what kind of job he just might do in protecting the American people and defending the Constitution of the United States. Unfortunately, the answer to that question has not been very comforting.

From Human Rights Watch:

(Washington, DC, October 18, 2007) – Attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey mischaracterized US obligations on torture, wrongly suggesting that so-called "unlawful combatants" in US custody are not entitled to the humane treatment protections of the Geneva Conventions, Human Rights Watch said today. This view has been squarely rejected by the Supreme Court and should be disavowed by Mukasey as well.

Much more over the flip...

Continued...

During confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) asked whether Mukasey agreed with the US government’s top military lawyers, who have stated that interrogation techniques such as "waterboarding" (mock drowning), the use of dogs, painful stress positions, and mock executions all violate the humane treatment requirements of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Mukasey replied that the military lawyers’ opinions, while relevant for conflicts "in the past," carry less weight when dealing with "unlawful combatants" today. He then went on to suggest that the humane treatment standards of Common Article 3 do not apply to interrogations of "unlawful combatants."

In reaction to Mukasey's testimony several Democratic Congressmen have expressed their willingness to block the nomination until Mukasey's gives them a definitive (and correct) answer.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination for attorney general ran into trouble Thursday when two top Senate Democrats said their votes hinge on whether he will say on the record that an interrogation technique that simulates drowning is torture.        


``It's fair to say my vote would depend on him answering that question,'' Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told reporters late Thursday.

     
``This to me is the seminal issue,'' said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, another member of Leahy's panel. Asked if his vote depends on whether Mukasey equates waterboarding with torture, Durbin answered: ``It does.''

     

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said his support could be in doubt over the same issue.

     

``I think if he doesn't change his direction in that regard, he could have at least one concern and that's me,'' Reid told reporters.

   Leahy has refused to set a date for a vote on Mukasey's nomination until he clarifies his answer to that question

This morning Senator John McCain  also stated his strong disappointment with Mukasey's testimony although he stopped short of being willing to block the nomination based on this question.

McCain: Anyone who says they don't if waterboarding is torture or not has no experience in the conduct of warefare or national security.  This is a fundamental about America.  Isn't isn't about an interrogation technique, it isn't about whether someone is harmed or not - it's about what kind of a nation we are.

Stephanapolous: Will Mr. Mukasey have to say clearly that he believes waterboarding is torture in order to get your vote?

I can’t be that absolute. But I want to know his answer. I want to know his answer. Obviously, you judge a candidate for office or nominee for office on the entire record. But this is a very important issue to me.

The fact is that Mr. Mukasey's statements to Congress on the issue of the Geneva Conventions are grossly incorrect. Last year in a 5-3 decision the Supreme Court established that Geneva does apply to so-called "Enemy Combatants." In making this statement Mukasey betrays a common deceit of the right in their argument that "Geneva doesn't apply" simply because al Qeada does not wear uniforms or insignia - they simultaneously admit that America may very well have commited "grave breaches" of Geneva in their treatment. Breaches severe enough to subject Administration Officials to War Crimes prosecution.

Further the Geneva Conventions, which under the establishment clause is considered equal to our Constitution and Laws, contains a catch-all clause which states that any combatant whose status remains "undetermined" is to be treated as fully covered by the conventions until a tribunal to determine their status has been completed.

Geneva Article 5:
Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall enjoy the protection of the present Convention until such time as their status has been determined by a competent tribunal

The question of whether such breaches have or hadn't occured was answered succintly when it was revealed that the CIA had finally banned Waterboarding last year - in the process admitting that they'd been doing it all along.

 

The controversial interrogation technique known as water-boarding, in which a suspect has water poured over his mouth and nose to stimulate a drowning reflex, has been banned by CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, current and former CIA officials tell ABCNews.com.

     

The officials say Hayden made the decision at the recommendation of his deputy, Steve Kappes, and received approval from the White House to remove water-boarding from the list of approved interrogation techniques first authorized by a presidential finding in 2002.

Since 2002 this practice has been standard operation proceedure for the CIA Detention program, and although it has been since halted - several other "techniques" which were specifically authorized by the President which may be similarly egregious apparently remain in use. The question of weather any of this is "torture" or not is rather easy to determine, all we have to do is look at who has been historically using these techniques.

Waterboarding Table used by the Khmer Rouge

Artist Rendition of Waterboarding techniques used in  Chad.

This kind of practice continues to the day around the globe, and not just to "enemy combatants" but to political dissenters and dissidents.

 

Across the globe, men and women are pushing for greater personal and political freedom and for the adoption of democratic institutions. They are striving to secure what President Bush calls "the non-negotiable demands of human dignity."

   

Despite personal risk and against great odds, courageous individuals and nongovernmental groups expose human rights abuses. They seek to protect the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, workers, and women, and to stop the trafficking in human beings. They work to build vibrant civil societies, ensure free and fair elections, and establish accountable, law-based democracies.

   

These impatient patriots are redefining the limitations of what was previously thought to be possible. Indeed, in the span of a few generations freedom has spread across the developing world, communist dictatorships have collapsed, and new democracies have risen. The rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are protected more fully and by more countries than ever before.

   

This noble work continues - but it is not yet complete and it faces determined opponents. Not surprisingly, those who feel threatened by democratic change resist those who advocate and act for reform. Over the past year, we have seen attempts to harass and intimidate human rights defenders and civil society organizations and to restrict or shut down their activities. Unjust laws have been wielded as political weapons against those with independent views. There also have been attempts to silence dissenting voices by extralegal means.

   

Whenever non-governmental organizations and other human rights defenders are under siege, freedom and democracy are undermined. The world's democracies must defend the defenders. That is one of the primary missions of our diplomacy today, and we hope that the Department of State's County Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006 will help to further this effort. With these thoughts, I hereby submit these reports to the United States Congress.

   

Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State 2007

Would that our own Department of State were to employ such high standards of Human Rights in our own country?Instead we hear the oft repeated, and well debunked, refain that "America does not Torture."  Amnesty International certainly isn't convinced.

 

(Washington, DC) - Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA's executive director, issued the following statement in response to President Bush's statement earlier today that the United States does not torture people:

   

"The Bush administration continues to astonish. Its own State Department has labeled waterboarding torture when it applies to other countries. Yet in President Bush's legal wonderland, waterboarding is renamed an enhanced interrogation technique. President Bush continues to assert that his administration is complying with U.S. and international law, yet every available fact has proven the contrary. Torture by any other name is still torture - a new name does not make the practice acceptable or even palatable."

Contrast what Amnesty International says about other forms of Mock Execution - which is what Waterboard truly is - when it's in used in countries such as Montenego.

In May, following a 2005 visit to Serbia and Montenegro, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture reported that it had received numerous allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by police officers. The majority of cases reportedly occurred at the time of arrest or during the first hours of detention at police stations, apparently to extract confessions.

Abuses reported included a mock execution in which a gun was placed in a detainee's mouth. Baseball bats and garden tools associated with reports of ill-treatment were found in Bar and Budva police stations.

 

• On 9 September, 17 men of ethnic Albanian origin, including three US citizens, were arrested and reportedly racially abused, ill-treated and, in some cases, tortured by police officers, during arrest, in court and at Podgorica police station. The men were transferred to Spuû prison on 12 September and 14 of them remained in detention at the end of the year. On 7 December, 18 men, including five US citizens, were indicted for conspiracy, "terrorism" and armed insurrection. An internal investigation was opened into complaints of ill-treatment by the police lodged on behalf of seven of the men.

And the U.S. State Deptartment's view of these incidents?

According to some of those involved, police beat citizens and foreigners whom they detained in the course of a September 9 raid in Tuzi. An internal police investigation ended inconclusively. Authorities stated that the raid, which took place a day before Assembly elections, foiled a terrorist plot and reported they had found a large weapons stash and plans to attack government buildings. Some opponents of the government asserted that the raid was politically motivated (those apprehended were associated with an Albanian nationalist organization).

  The investigation by the minister of interior and supreme state prosecutor into police beatings of prisoners in the main penitentiary in September 2005 concluded that police did not exceed their authority. There was no public reaction to the report's conclusion, although after the raid several prisoners were sent to the hospital with severe injuries.

Interesting that the Rice State Dept seems to take the police side of the argument completely at face value, even when the "foreigners" allegedly detaineed were American. People went to the hospital, but there weren't any "beatings". Right.

What about in Angola?  Amnesty International's version of events.

The government said that fighting had ended in Cabinda, an Angolan enclave situated between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo. However, an estimated 30,000 government soldiers reportedly maintained a repressive presence, detaining and assaulting people suspected of supporting the Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave (Frente de Libertação do Enclave de Cabinda, FLEC), looting goods and crops, and causing villagers to flee to other areas.

Human rights workers reported that soldiers based in Nkuto, Buco-Zau municipality, frequently detained people suspected of supporting FLEC. More than 60 women were reportedly briefly held in January and accused of taking food to FLEC. Some were beaten. Mateus Bulo, aged 66, and his daughter were among a group of people arrested in May. Mateus Bulo was subjected to a mock execution, then he and his daughter were both beaten with sticks before being allowed to return to their fields.

And State's?

  Domestic media and local human rights activists reported cases of police resorting to excessive force, including unlawful killings. In February the independent press reported that a youth suspected of gang activity was killed in a Luanda precinct. Police largely viewed extrajudicial killings as an alternative to relying on the country's ineffective judicial system. In May citizens reported that the body of a pregnant woman was discovered after her arrest by national police in Luanda Norte. These cases were reportedly still under investigation at year's end; however, national authorities were generally reluctant to disclose investigation results. In June human rights activists reported that police "accidentally killed" a disabled man during an abusive interrogation; the responsible officers were dismissed from the national police the same month.

   

A Memorandum of Understanding for Peace and Reconciliation for Cabinda province, signed on August 1, largely brought an end to the insurgency in the province. As a result of this and an FAA policy of cooperation rather than repression, there was only one report during the year, in November, of an unlawful killing in Cabinda that may be linked to FAA soldiers. The case remained under investigation by both military and civil authorities. There were also confirmed reports of 12 small clashes in the enclave between the FAA and the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) in the period immediately surrounding the signing of the memorandum. Four civilians were reportedly killed in these clashes between FLEC soldiers and FAA forces. Since early September there were no confirmed reports of armed conflict.

Again, this report is similar but again downplays the level and intensity of human rights violations taking place as a result of authoritarian abuse, and belies all of Rice's flowery rhetoric about our enduring support for those allegedly "non-negotiable demands of human dignity."

These are clearly extreme examples, but honestly they aren't all that more extreme than similar events which have occured in the U.S. for decades on the streets of L.A., Detroit, Philadelphia and during Rudy Giuliani's stint as mayor of New York.

The naked duplicity and failure of the United States to lead in this area sends a very wrong message to those who would chose to hold on to the reins of power by force, intimidation and oppression. It tells them not that their time is drawing to close - but rather, that the time for brutality is truly at hand. The one nation with the greatest claim as a supporter of democracy and freedom has apparently joined the other team.

We can not set an example for the world, while playing semantic games with who is or isn't protected by the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION of Human Rights. If Universal doesn't mean Universal, if all doesn't mean ALL, then no one is truly covered.

And if the man who would seek to become the Top Law Enforcement Officer of the most powerful nation on the earth doesn't know the law, then he certainly should not be handed the reins of power.

Vyan

Originally posted to Vyan on Sun Oct 28, 2007 at 12:35 PM PDT.

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