Torturing someone is against the law, PERIOD!!! (And a few exclamation points.)
(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.
(c) Conspiracy.— A person who conspires to commit an offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties (other than the penalty of death) as the penalties prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy.
If you’ve read the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on CIA torture, or the media reporting on it, you are aware that torture was committed by a number of CIA operatives. Not only that, but responsibility goes way up the chain of command. (That conspiracy section of 2340A is a bitch!)
I’m not going to belabor the fact that torturing turned out to be counter-productive on several levels, including being a terrorist recruitment bonanza. Nor, am I going to expound on all the lying and covering up that was going on. Others will more than cover those aspects. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the call for justice.
As might be expected, the report’s release has renewed calls from around the country, and the world, for prosecutions of the torturers and the conspirators who paved the way.
Torture is also a crime under international law as laid out in the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the US ratified in 1994. In reaction to the senate report, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights stated,
In all countries, if someone commits murder, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they commit rape or armed robbery, they are prosecuted and jailed. If they order, enable or commit torture – recognized as a serious international crime – they cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency.
The U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-terrorism had this to say,
The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the U.S. government provides no excuse whatsoever.
And then, of course, there’s the famous Geneva Convention that we also signed on to.
No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflected on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
So, torturing is against the Geneva Convention (which we signed), the U.N. Convention Against Torture (that we ratified) and against our own laws. Now, the question is: WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
In fairness to the current administration, this is a heck of a hot potato. If we bring Bush League and the Bozos to trial, all hell is going to break loose politically. (Can you say “Constitutional Crisis”?) However, if we don’t do it, we’ve opened the door to any future administration that wants to throw law out the window because there’s no consequence for doing that.
So, what’s it going to be? Are we a nation of laws with equal justice for all, or are we a nation of political expediency and corruption of the law?
Guest post by Dave Kilby. Dave Kilby is a grouchy old fart. (At least that’s what his kids say) He’s a freelance writer with a blog: “Grumbles From an Old Grouch” and a Facebook page: “Grouchy’s Grumbles“. Check him out. He’ll be glad you did!
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