In the academic world of psychology, it is widely accepted that the inhumane acts perpetrated by torturers are primarily the result of powerful external influences on the individual psyche- in other words, the individual is not innately inhumane, but specific circumstances inevitably educe inhumane behavior. Many of these powerful external influences, however, are fundamental elements for the solidity and success of government institutions. Thus, it becomes somewhat clearer why horrific acts of torture can occur within strongly established institutions.
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INTERNATIONAL LAWS CONCERNING TORTURE
United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)
The United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) was initiated by the United Nations in 1987 as an international effort to ban torture. Consequently, the UN Committee Against Torture was created as part of the convention to help implement the goals of UNCAT. Unlike other organizations, UNCAT is one of the few international efforts against torture that actually defines this act.
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Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th and the subsequent global “War on Terror,” multiple allegations and images have appeared surrounding the use of torture by the US in the interrogation of terror suspects. Extraordinary rendition has been going on for over a decade, whereas abuses in Guantanamo Bay Cuba and the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad are more recent phenomena. The United States effectively sponsored torture for over fifty years through the School of the Americas. Each of these cases represents huge human rights abuses and violation of both US and international law.
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Our research group was assigned the task of talking about the actual policies by the Bush Administration and the US Congress that allowed such conditions to be created. We will begin with a discussion of the many memos produced by the Bush Administration justifying America’s ability to use torture, and my colleagues will discuss the actions of Congress and the Courts, among other things. It should be clear to you from this discussion that the permissive environment for torture was intentionally created by the Bush Administration, including the President himself, and subsequently re-affirmed by the Congress, meaning that they are specifically responsible, although it appears that many, including Rumsfeld, were not aware of what the techniques they authorized were actually like.
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Arizona Senator John McCain (R) has spoken strongly against the use of torture as an interrogation technique, citing his experience of being tortured as a POW in Vietnam in the reasons for clarifying US Law against torture. His main 3 points are as follows:
First, subjecting prisoners to abuse leads to bad intelligence, because under torture a detainee will tell his interrogator anything to make the pain stop.
Second, mistreatment of our prisoners endangers U.S. troops who might be captured by the enemy - if not in this war, then in the next.
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Writ of Habeas Corpus
A writ of habeas corpus is a court order addressed to a prison official (or other custodian) ordering that a detainee be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully or should be released. It is a means by which detainees can seek release from unlawful imprisonment. According to Article One, section nine of the United States Constitution, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”
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