The prison is located in Abu Ghraib, a city 32km West of Baghdad. It has been around since the 60s, and was previously under Sadaam’s control, where it was known as a bit of a torture camp. Apparently it was known as having some of the worst cases of torture in the modern world. It sounds huge; it is estimated as being the size of a small town. (1) In 2003, the compound became responsible for foreign prisoners, long sentences, short sentences, capital crimes and “special” crimes.
On the 22nd April 2003, the US military took over the camp and named it ‘Camp Redemption’ and used it to house problem inmates and those that were security risks (2). _____________________________________________________________ (1) Asser. M. Abu Ghraib: Dark stain on Iraq’s past, 2004, http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/americas/3747005. stm (2) Wikipedia, Abu Ghraib Prison, 2007, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_prison So how did the scandal come about? In late summer the population in the prison grew massively and the prison guards began to feel overwhelmed and stressed.
Specialist Joseph Darby returned from a weekend away to rumours of a shooting in one of the blocks. He asked the military police for any photos or evidence relating to what happened. He was given a CD and on it were hundreds of photos showing the horrific abuse that Iraqi inmates were suffering (1). Then on 13 January 2004, Darby handed the CD to the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) as he decided it was the right thing to do. An investigation was then launched into the matter by CID. Lots of people were interviewed, including a number of Iraqis who claimed to have been abused (1).
These interviews were actually leaked to The Washington Post by an unknown source not long after (2). Then further photos were leaked to the media, supposedly by a relative of military policeman. Initially, they were given to the CBS program 60 Minutes in mid April 2004, but broadcasting was delayed until April 28 at request of General Richard B Myers, Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff for unknown reasons (2). More photos were released soon after the program aired. It is though the photos were taken across 7 days in October, November and December 2003 (2).
After all this went to the media, a major investigation was launched by the United States, headed by high level investigator Taguba (1). _____________________________________________________________ (1) Danner, Torture and Truth, p. 215-216. (2) Whitney, The Abu Ghraib Investigations, p. VII-XXIII. Taguba found the entire brigade was inadequately trained for the mission (1). What was interesting is that a lot of these people were simple reservists or new recruits. He found a “general lack of knowledge, implementation, and emphasis of basic legal, regulatory, doctrinal and command requirements” (1).
He also found what he viewed as acts of illegal and intentional abuse of prisoners and felt prosecution should occur (2). The Red Cross also visited Abu Ghraib in order to conduct investigations into torture and they found evidence of multiple instances of it. In particular, they found instances of hooding to prevent people from seeing and breathing freely, and also to disorient them, sexual humiliation, for example being paraded around naked in front of others, creating anxiety through dog attacks and being forced to stay in stress positions (like squatting) for days on end.
These do not describe everything they found, just some small incidences (3). Pretty much the reason that the world knows about these events is because Darby felt compelled to share what he discovered by accident, and also because concerned soldiers and their families chose to reveal further information. As a result of this, the global media dug deeper and obtained the Red Cross Report and the Taguba report, both of which we mentioned earlier, which were then broadcast to the world. _____________________________________________________________ (1) Whitney, The Abu Ghraib Investigations, p. XII. 2) Whitney, The Abu Ghraib Investigations, p. XIII (3) Danner, Torture and Truth, p. 6. 12 people have been brought to military court and convicted over the matter, including a staff sergeant from the Army reserve. What was interesting from these hearings was that they stated they were simply following instructions from military intelligence to “get [the prisoners] to talk” (1) and “loosen” the prisoners up, making sure they “get the treatment” (2). Furthermore, they have been recorded as saying “[they] assumed if they were doing things out of the ordinary or outside the guidelines, someone would have said omething” (2). So pretty much, the result was that the people seen in photographs were charged and convicted (3). This scandal has also done irreparable damage to the US’ reputation. As you can imagine, these acts also generated some pretty bad press for the US military and the US as a whole. Unfortunately it also started a domino effect that has led many organizations to pull out their support of military detainment facilities, such as the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association (4).
This in turn leads to not only increased bad press, but also dangerous conditions within the detainment centers. _____________________________________________________________ (1) Whitney, The Abu Ghraib Investigations, p. XIII. (2) Danner, Torture and Truth, p 8-9. (4) Vedantam. S. APA rules on Interrogation abuse: Psychologists’ group bars member participation in certain techniques, The Washington Post, 20 August 2007, p 3. There is one more major international convention governing torture, and that is the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
This convention was created in 1984 with an aim to prohibit torture from any situation. The US is also a signatory to this convention. In a nutshell, this convention also forbids torture under any circumstances, not just within the military. It spells out that there is no justification for torture, not even exceptional circumstances or following orders (1). What is interesting about this convention as well is that it forbids the extradition of prisoners to countries where torture is permissible or known to be occurring (2). ____________________________________________________________ (1) Jackson, Normalizing Torture. (2) Roth, An Open Letter to President Bush. A scholar who believes torture is never justified and should never be is Vincent Iacopino, a senior medical consultant for the Physician for Human Rights (1). He believes that torture victims suffer unspeakable pain and degradation which often lasts a lifetime and that those who advocate torture have not witnessed the extreme horror it creates, giving examples in his paper of the deformities and the psychological trauma it can cause.
He further argues that torture does not make individuals or societies safer and is generally unconstructive, as people are pressured to saying what the torturers want to hear and not the truth, often about something they know nothing about. Iacopino also contradicts the current opinion of some scholars that feel that torture is ok, so long as it is monitored and controlled. He believes that sanctioning torture would escalate its widespread use. A further theorist who agrees that torture is never acceptable is Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch (2).
His primary basis is not only that it is a violation of human rights, but also that it is against international law. He argues the point that torture is never permissible, under any circumstances whether is war or peace. _____________________________________________________________ (1) Iacopino et al. , Why Torture Should not be Sanctioned by the United States. (2) Roth, An Open Letter to President Bush. There are also those who believe torture is okay. Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz is one of the primary scholars regarding the acceptable uses of torture (1).
His thoughts derive from the idea that torture always occurs in extreme situations so there should be a way of controlling it or licensing it. Pretty much, he believes that torture is acceptable and even good if done by the right people in the right situations. For this reason, he suggests that judges be issued the right to give out torture warrants based on “absolute need to obtain information in order to save lives coupled with probable cause the suspect had such information”.
He suggests these should not be allowed to kill people, but instead just cause severe pain, for example inserting rods under their fingernails. The main criticism that Dershowitz has faced is that by doing this, it is normalising extreme. The problem is as things start to become more acceptable, people will begin to use them in not so extreme situations if they are thinking in the right way, for example finding out if someone’s sister stole their t-shirt (1).
Another scholar who argues pro torture is Berkley Law Professor, John Yoo. He argues a different angle to Dershowitz, namely that torture by the US in the war on terror is not illegal, therefore it can be accepted (2). He argues that the constitution grants the President unhindered discretion in war time, allowing him to “do whatever actions he deems appropriate to pre-empt or respond to terrorist threats from new quarters”. This is especially the case in the war on terror as it is a new kind of war.
Unfortunately, this puts all the power in one person to decide whether or not torture is warranted and we’re not sure this is the best way to go about executing this… _____________________________________________________________ (1) This information is taken from two places, the first provides a summary of Dershowitz’s argument and the second provides a script of a recent television debate between Dershowitz and Roth: Jackson, Normalizing Torture CNN, Dershowitz: Torture Could Be Justified, CNNAccess, 4 March 2003, http://edition. cnn. om/2003/LAW/03/03/cnna. Dershowitz/ (3) Yoo’s argument is taken from; Jackson, Normalizing Torture As outlined today, torture is unconstructive as it often elicits wrong or false information, affects individuals involved markedly long-term and is a violation of human rights. We also believe that it has given and will continue to give the US a bad reputation internationally, which will adversely affect relations with other countries. With the withdrawal of American medical and psychological support groups, the situation can only be expected to get worse.