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Coming in June: A Document a Day

Larry Siems,
The Torture Report
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May 28, 2010

Throughout June, we’ll be observing Torture Awareness Month by posting a Document a Day on The Torture Report Diary.

In 1997, the United Nations commemorated the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by declaring June 26th the International Day of Support of Victims of Torture.

On June 26, 2003, President Bush marked the day by issuing this statement:

Today, on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, the United States declares its strong solidarity with torture victims across the world. Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. We are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.

Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, ratified by the United States and more than 130 other countries since 1984, forbids governments from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on those within their custody or control. Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit. Beating, burning, rape, and electric shock are some of the grisly tools such regimes use to terrorize their own citizens. These despicable crimes cannot be tolerated by a world committed to justice.

Notorious human rights abusers, including, among others, Burma, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Zimbabwe, have long sought to shield their abuses from the eyes of the world by staging elaborate deceptions and denying access to international human rights monitors…

The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment…

A year later, two months after 60 Minutes II and The New Yorker broke stories featuring the Abu Ghraib torture photos, President Bush again asserted the U.S.’s “commitment to the worldwide elimination of torture,” this time insisting

America stands against and will not tolerate torture. We will investigate and prosecute all acts of torture and undertake to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment in all territory under our jurisdiction…

The United States also remains steadfastly committed to upholding the Geneva Conventions, which have been the bedrock of protection in armed conflict for more than 50 years. We expect other nations to treat our service members and civilians in accordance with the Geneva conventions. Our Armed Forces are committed to complying with them and to holding accountable those in our military who do not…

America supports accountability and treatment centers for torture victims. We stand with the victims to seek their healing and recovery, and urge all nations to join us in these efforts to restore the dignity of every person affected by torture.

Tens of thousands of pages of formerly-secret government documents leave no doubt that after September 11, 2001 the United States violated domestic and international bans on torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, committing abuses we shielded from the eyes of the world “by staging elaborate deceptions and denying access to international human rights monitors.” Few of these abuses have been properly investigated and still fewer prosecuted, and there is virtually no public conversation whatsoever about our obligation under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to seek the healing and recovery of those we have abused.

I am working away on Chapter 5 of the Report; meanwhile I’ve gone back through my files and through the piles of documents and pulled some of the most compelling pieces of the documentary record. Stop by this space throughout Torture Awareness Month as we post a Document a Day.

To read more about and see documentary evidence of the Bush administration’s torture program, go to

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