On a positive note that could have far reaching implications on how America is perceived by the rest of the world, President-elect Barack Obama reiterated his pledge to end torture of "terror" suspects by US agents and operatives. "It was clear throughout this campaign and this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture, " said Obama. "We will abide by the Geneva Conventions; we will uphold our highest ideals."
It is disturbing that in just eight short years, the American people have increasingly allowed torture and other despicable practices to be implemented in their name in places like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Grab, Diego Garcia and other government controlled places of detainment, many of them intentionally hidden from international humanitarian organizations and shrouded in secrecy.
These ghastly methods and archaic procedures have taken a tremendous toll on the reputation of America for justice and fair play, and created an international climate where Americans everywhere are less safe and American soldiers and government operatives are in more danger of being tortured if they fall into enemy hands.
President George Bush has conspired to circumvent the provisions of the United States Constitution (which he swore to uphold) as well as the letter and spirit of the Third Geneva Convention by either labeling captives as unlawful combatants or as terrorists in an attempt to place them outside of the protections afforded them by international codes for the humane treatment of war prisoners.
His actions are also a direct and obvious violation of the sixth amendment of the Constitution which secures all persons under American jurisprudence from secret or closed trials, and the eighth amendment which protects against cruel and unusual punishment.
It is also in flagrant violation of Article 17 of the Third Geneva Convention (which was ratified by the United States) and states unequivocally that: " No physical or mental torture nor any other form of coercion may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant, disadvantageous treatment of any kind."
Moreover in 1977 two new protocols were added to further protect the rights of all people who may be affected by war or any other type of conflict. They stipulate that the dignity of all human beings must be respected at all times and that everything possible must be done, without any discrimination whatsoever, to reduce the suffering of people who are sick, wounded, or in captivity regardless if they are direct participants in any conflict or not.
The Third Geneva Convention was held in the aftermath of the Nazi genocide of World War II and the outrages committed against both soldiers and prisoners of war by the Japanese. It also sounded an alarm against war crimes and abuses that had been committed by all side of the global conflict (America included).
Nevertheless, America despite its record of abuses especially toward black Americans and Native American people and its barbaric record against the civilian population during the Vietnam War enjoyed a general perception as a nation of justice, decency and fair-play.
This outlook was badly damaged with the revelations of America's treatment of prisoners at Abu Grab, Guantanamo Bay along with the sneaky practice of "emergency renditions" which involves America shipping prisoners to nations that routinely practice torture and brutality.
It is poetic justice and a fitting development that America's first black president has promised to use the power of his office to end policies and practices that are not only unlawful but offensive to the principles of human decency and that have continued unaccountable for far too long.
Steven Malik Shelton is a journalist and human rights advocate. He can be reached at; firstname.lastname@example.org
© Jan 2009 By Afromerica || [TOP]
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