Tuesday, July 17, 2012

An innocent man

A man is kidnapped in Somalia. The warlord hands over to an official from another country who then sends the man to a secret prison somewhere near the Middle East. For five years that man is held in solitary confinement. He is stripped of his clothes. He is deprived of sleep. He is subjected to bright lights and loud music for days at a time. He is left in complete darkness for days at a time. He is physically and mentally tortured. And this does on day after day, week after week, month after month, for five long years.

Then, one day he is released. He was never formally charged. He never saw the inside of a courtroom or was allowed to see the evidence against him. One day he's in and the next day, with a piece of paper indicating that he was detained and found innocent, he's out.

The label of suspected terrorist is stuck on his back. He lives in constant fear that he will be scooped up again in the future and subjected to the dehumanizing treatment he suffered for those five long years. He has no recourse against the government that ordered his torture. He is, instead, left to pick up the pieces of his own shattered life.

The man's name is Suleiman Abdallah and he was an innocent victim of the United States' brutal torture regime under both the Bush and Obama administrations. The hell through which he lived was a violation of his human rights and constituted a war crime. Of course since the U.S. pulls the strings in both the U.N. and the International Criminal Court, there is no chance that either George W. Bush or Barack Obama will ever have to answer charges they broke international law.

Writes Clara Gutteridge in The Nation:

Suleiman’s legal options were few. “There is currently no political or judicial avenue available to a person like Suleiman who has been wronged by the United States,” explains attorney and professor Joe Margulies, author of Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power. “In limited circumstances, like prisoners at Guantánamo, people can seek their release in court, but no one can seek anything more than that.” Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, he notes, “any suggestion that the US should compensate an innocent man for the wrong done to him is a complete nonstarter.” 
In theory, Suleiman could have sued one of the regional states—Djibouti or Kenya—for their complicity in his rendition and torture. But weak, slow-moving and overburdened legal systems make this option unlikely to yield any tangible benefit.

As I believe my colleague, Jeff Gamso, would say, the torture regime carried out by our government is a case in which the Law of Rule supplanted the Rule of Law. The U.S. government tortured foreign nationals because they could. There was no one to stop it. There was no one to storm the gates at Bagram Air Force Base or at Guantanamo Bay.

Some day, maybe sooner than later, we will look back in shame at what our government did in our name. We will realize that the ends don't justify the means and that once you cross the line the way our government did, there's no coming back.

Every soldier who participated in the torture of a foreign national should face charges. Every officer who ordered the torture to continue should face charges. Every commander who presided over the torture of anyone should face charges. Every federal agent who participated should face charges. The Attorneys General and Defense Secretaries who gave the plan the go-ahead should face charges. Presidents Bush and Obama should face charges.

There is no excuse for what happened in those secret prisons. There is no excuse for the treatment the detainees suffered through. There is no justification for the systematic violation of human rights and international law.

But it won't stop.

From Democracy Now!

No comments: