International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

US Torture Reports as Multiple Core Crimes?

According to an ICTJ article, the recently released torture reports revealed that the US government has been committing “systematic torture,” against prisoners in foreign jails – a flagrant disregard of the US’s policies and values on torture. This immediately reminded me of a recent in-class discussion regarding the core crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The ICTJ’s label of the torture as “systematic” may be misleading because it initially reminded me of crimes against humanity because our in-class definition reads, “widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.” While the prisoners cannot be classified as civilians, they were also not allowed a “shred of due process or even the semblance of justice” and the torture was not an isolated incident, as the over 6,000-page report illustrates. Yet mistreating prisoners of war, which is what the gruesome torture report describes, is classified as a war crime. To add to the confusion, the ICTJ article reports that 26 out of the 119 men were wrongfully held, causing me to think that they were not deserving of being a POW in the first place. If they were totally undeserving of punishment, as the ICTJ suggests, can they actually be considered civilians? The issue of the recent torture reports and the individuals involved seems to be a messy situation in terms of defining exactly what type of atrocity it is.

Article:  After Torture Report, Rights of Victims and Accountability of Perpetrators Must Not Be Denied


3 responses to “US Torture Reports as Multiple Core Crimes?

  1. leckstei24 January 28, 2015 at 10:03 pm

    In response to much of the discussion about the “Torture Report” both in class and in media since its release, it is hard to process why a country that prides itself in democracy, justice, and freedom would commit actions like the ones outlined in the report. Furthermore, it is possibly perplexing why the United States is not a signed member of the International Criminal Court, despite being a firm and public supporter of the institution of international law. Although policies and international relations have changed since the end of World War II, it is a challenge to believe that a country that demanded trials and the following of international law for prosecuting WWII criminals instead of execution could be the same country that commits crimes against prisoners of war. The exposing of these actions makes me question the United States’ choice to remain a non-signatory to the ICC and in turn, search for reasoning. In a report published by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, titled “The United States and the International Criminal Court,” part of the reasoning for the United States to remain non-compliant with the ICC includes issues with policy, both nationally and internationally. The report claims, “The ICC highlights the tension that exists among U.S. policymakers between the desire for a cooperative international system based on rule of law, and the wish to assert the right to use unilateral force in pursuit of policy goals.” Although I am sure that there are many additional reasons for remaining apart from the ICC, I believe that policy is one of the strongest and apparent reasons. As long as the United States remains disjoint from the ICC, the United States will continue to commit actions like those released in the “Torture Report” without international accountability or expectations.

  2. jdelduca January 30, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    After exploring the concepts of justice and reconciliation in class, I am pushed to think that the release of a ‘torture report’ is, in a sense, a form of acknowledgment on the part of the United States. Although only part of the report was released and no one has yet been held accountable for the crime, the torture report offers a glimpse of truth into what has been going on covertly. Furthermore, some US officials including the president express these actions as an ethical failure for the US. Considering that the US has failed to uphold its moral standards it seems only reasonable that the government pursues an investigation. However according to an article published by Foreign Policy it states that in 2009 Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) pushed towards launching a truth commission to investigate Bush-Cheney administration abuses but his efforts were ignored. As important as I believe learning the truth is, I also feel that holding individuals accountable for this crime will be a very long and difficult process to undergo. As we discussed, that is one of the critiques of the reconciliation process. Although it will be difficult I do believe the US should seek to investigate and prosecute those guilty of the crime because I feel it is important to uphold moral standards especially when you are one of the world’s leading nations.

  3. ah2017intjustice February 8, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    This article is an interesting look at some of the international reactions to the release of the U.S. torture report. Many used it as an opportunity to highlight U.S. hypocrisy in presenting itself as a moral world leader while carrying out such violations of international law. Many countries also framed the report as no more than an official confirmation of the torture everyone already knew the U.S. was committing. As a legal advisor from Yemen put it, “people here are not looking for more proof of torture [by the United States] They deal with it as a fact.” There were also a few reactions that were more surprising. For example, in France, a leader of the country’s far-right party did not condemn the torture. It should also be noted that several countries, including Malaysia and Poland, responded to the release of the report by coming forward and acknowledging their own role in providing CIA “black sites” in which this torture took place and called upon their countries to investigate and expose the truth. These reactions from around the world demonstrate the ways international law and the pursuit of justice can be clouded by global politics and power dynamics. Though all countries quoted other than France fervently condemned the torture, only one response even mentioned prosecution.

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