Saturday, July 12, 2008

Down The Rabbit Hole

I was reading the latest in the saga as to exactly what information the Conservative government was privy to in the Omar Khadr matter yesterday. Apparently new documents released by the Foreign Affairs Department show that Canadian officials knew in 2004 that "the US military was depriving the then 17-year-old Khadr of sleep for weeks to soften him up for interrogation".

Putting aside for the moment of the issue of whether or not Canada should have done more (or anything) to get Khadr out of Guantanamo and have him returned to Canada and recognizing that I ain't no fan of either Prime Minister Harper or his Conservative government, I have to say that I quite taken aback by these statements from Khadr's lawyer.
It boggles my mind that this prime minister is prepared to criticize China over human rights and is prepared to lambaste Mexico for the way its criminal justice system is applied to a Canadian," said Edney.

"But when you have a young Canadian who is in Guantanamo Bay whom Canadian courts have said has been abused and tortured, our government remains silent."
Excuse me, but when, exactly, did depriving a person of sleep to "soften them up" for interrogation become defined as "torture"? Admittedly, it's not very pleasant and certainly not a very hospitable thing to do, but torture?

A quick Google search for the definition of torture yields the following:

Definitions of torture on the Web:
  • anguish: extreme mental distress

  • unbearable physical pain

  • agony: intense feelings of suffering; acute mental or physical pain; "an agony of doubt"; "the torments of the damned"

  • distortion: the act of distorting something so it seems to mean something it was not intended to mean

  • torment: torment emotionally or mentally subject to torture; "The sinners will be tormented in Hell, according to the Bible"

  • the deliberate, systematic, or wanton infliction of physical or mental suffering by one or more persons in an attempt to force another person to yield information or to make a confession or for any other reason; "it required unnatural torturing to extract a confession" wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

    • Or try these documents.

      The U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991:

      b) Torture- For the purposes of this Act–
      (1) the term `torture’ means any act, directed against an individual in the offender’s custody or physical control, by which severe pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering arising only from or inherent in, or incidental to, lawful sanctions), whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on that individual for such purposes as obtaining from that individual or a third person information or a confession, punishing that individual for an act that individual or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, intimidating or coercing that individual or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind; and
      (2) mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from–
      (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
      (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
      (C) the threat of imminent death; or
      (D) the threat that another individual will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.
      The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

      For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
      Now, I'm sorry but nowhere can I equate anything in any of that with simple sleep deprivation. Particularly given that the reference to "depriving ... Khadr of sleep for weeks" was more succinctly described as not being permitted more than three hours in any one location for a three week period.

      At three-hour intervals he is moved to another cell block, thus denying him uninterrupted sleep and a continued change of neighbours."

      The documents go on to say that Khadr was to be placed in isolation for up to three weeks and then interviewed again.
      I'm certainly not privy to what else might or might not have been done to Khadr. So I will make no comment on a recent Federal Court finding that that the way the U.S. military prepared Khadr for interrogation with visiting Canadian government officials broke human rights laws, including the Geneva Conventions.

      But I do feel that I can say with a fair degree of certainty that not permitting someone more than three hours in any one location does not qualify as "torture". Not in any case and certainly not for someone suspected of lobbing a grenade that killed a Special Forces soldier following a firefight in Afghanistan.

      Then again, I wouldn't consider at least half of the stuff listed here as "torture" either. Although, just to be clear, unlike many others, I would and do consider waterboarding to qualify as "torture".

      But as for the rest of it, if I start referring to a chair as a table and enough other people start mimicking me and doing the same, will that chair really become a table?


      2 comments:

      doorkeeper said...

      Gee, that means I've been a victim of torture in my own home--and the perp was my own disabled child--and our precious gov't did nothing to help.....

      I feel SO abused.

      doorkeeper

      MMC said...

      Good to see you back on the blog, doorkeeper! ;-)