No Comment — December 1, 2008, 11:51 pm

Create a Torture Commission

The International Center for Transitional Justice has spent more than a year looking into how the United States can restore its good name on the international stage. Here’s the diagnosis:

[The] slippage in respect for human rights by the U.S. government and its agents has
occurred in the context of government policies of secrecy and denial. The democratic
principle that openness in government can act as an important check against the
possibility of government abuse has been steadily undermined. A critical information
gap, only partially addressed through fragmented investigative efforts within and outside
government, leaves important questions unanswered, such as how and by whom abuse
has been authorized and carried out, on what scale and with what human and policy
consequences.

The first important steps in righting U.S. policy in connection to the “war on terror” must be to ensure that abuses cease, that instructions to avoid future abuses are clear and unequivocal, and that its commitment as a party to international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are fully honored.

It has some simple recommendations:

An investigative body, special investigative committee, or commission of inquiry
(hereafter, generically, “inquiry”) should be established to examine the causes, nature,
extent and effects of gross or systematic violations of U.S. law and applicable
international human rights and humanitarian law standards that may have been
committed in relation to the “war on terror.”

The path out of torture starts, sensibly enough, with coming clean about what happened. Read the entire policy statement here.

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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