Thursday, September 30, 2004

Torture by proxy

From Obsidian Wings: under the guise of implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, the US House of Representatives is moving to legalise the practice of extraordinary rendition, thus allowing terrorist suspects (or anybody else) to be sent to foreign countries specifically for the purpose of being tortured:

The provision would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist - thereby allowing them to be deported or transferred to a country that may engage in torture. The provision would put the burden of proof on the person being deported or rendered to establish "by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured," would bar the courts from having jurisdiction to review the Secretary's regulations, and would free the Secretary to deport or remove terrorist suspects to any country in the world at will - even countries other than the person's home country or the country in which they were born. The provision would also apply retroactively.

(Original emphasis).

It's actually worse than it sounds there. In the comments section, the post's author, having read the text of the bill, notes that

terrorism suspects seem to be excluded from the deportation provisions of the Convention Against Torture entirely, even if they could do the impossible and prove by clear and convincing evidence that they would face torture.

Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment specifically bars this practice:

  1. No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
  2. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.

While the US has entered a reservation on how this article will be interpreted (interpreting "substantial grounds for belief" as "more likely than not"), the above still clearly violates even their lax interpretation - thus necessitating the (constitutionally questionable) bar on judicial oversight.

I am simply sickened by this. The US is supposed to be a beacon of human rights and freedom, and here it is adopting a "nudge nudge wink wink say no more" attitude towards the worst possible violation of its ideals. If you are an American, please contact your representative and tell them you will not stand for this.