who's defending the tortured?

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There is some important information about U.S. torture that is not admitted to by those involved, and may be hard for torture opponents to think of without certain experience. That is the information from clinicians involved in treatment of torture survivors. What I have to say here comes from 19 years' clinical work with survivors. -- Gerald Gray, LCSW 

1. What the Bush Administration officials deny as torture has been known and accepted for years as torture in federal immigration courts in political asylum appeals. It is often presented there by clinicians from the 25 U.S. torture treatment centers--which are federally funded through the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. These centers are also funded through the U.N. Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture--which is in part voluntarily funded by the U.S. That is, there is wide evidence of federal knowledge from its own sources that is has engaged in torture--but the public does not know this.

2. There is no official comment on what punishment is given prisoners who refuse to cooperate with certain torture. For instance, what if a prisoner refuses to stand for hours on end in one place? In the experience of survivors I have treated, this results in torture that is immediately more painful but does not physically show. Most commonly , this means beatings to the soft parts of the body, but it can also mean rape, electrocutions, etc. in order to force compliance with what is refused. Then there is always rendition to other countries. I have seen those people too.

3. There is no mention of an additional torture technique which even the International Red Cross appears to have missed. That is, torture by forced disappearance -- "disappearance" of prisoners is accepted both by the U.N. and by torture treatment centers worldwide as a form of torture. "Disappearance" tortures both the prisoner and the prisoners' families. The latter are unable either to give up hope, or to finally grieve, and their imaginations are uncontrolled; for the prisoners, it means high anxiety about their families, in particular that they may be tortured in ways the prisoner is. Moreover, it is the one torture technique that escapes the secret torture chamber--it is realized by the families, and so by communities, and so by regions--and in this way it takes torture from ostensible torture for information, to torture for control of regions by terror. It is not just so-called "high value" prisoners who have been disappeared by the U.S.

4. Finally, about waterboarding. It is a form of suffocation, and so is easily understood by anyone as torture--and yesterday's news indicates scores of waterboardings of single prisoners in U.S. custody. Moreover, it too has been understood by federal officials to be torture and specifically forbidden in the Torture Victim Relief Act of 2003. Torture techniques named there include, inter alia, "rape...systematic beating, sexual torture (sic), electrical torture, suffocation, burning, bodily suspension...deprivation and exhaustion, threats about the use of torture, witnessing the torture of others, humiliation, and isolation." Federal Register, v. 69, no. 55, March 22, 2004. Page 13308.

and for discussion of an ongoing local court case see 
Since the release of the memos last week, while the focus of many lawmakers and advocates has been on potential prosecution of the lawyers and policymakers who approved them, the ACLU's letter picks up on a different part of the accountability equation that so far has gotten far less attention: granting the victims their day in court.

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This page contains a single entry published on April 21, 2009 9:18 AM.

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