A new play by Patricia Davis
Most of the tactics alluded to or portrayed in Alternative Methods (kicks, stress positions, sexual and cultural humiliation) are now forbidden by President Obama’s executive order against torture. But secret detention continues. Torture continues.
Detainees are being abused at a secret prison on Bagram airbase, BBC News reported in April 2010. The BBC based its report on the testimonies of nine former prisoners, whose stories the BBC documented. The former detainees told the BBC they were beaten by soldiers before being taken to the prison. They had no visits from the International Red Cross, and their families did not know where they were. They were kept in very cold cells. A machine that made noise prevented them from sleeping. Their cells had cameras in them and if a detainee did fall asleep, a soldier would awaken and interrogate him. The secret prison has been dubbed the Black Jail, or the Black Hole. A new prison has recently been constructed in Bagram, called the Detention Facility in Parwan. It is not secret. A BBC reporter was allowed to visit for an hour and saw sensory deprivation being widely used. Prisoners were being moved around in wheelchairs with goggles and headphones on. The goggles were blacked out, and the purpose of the headphones was to block out all sound. Each prisoner was handcuffed and wore leg shackles.
The reforms of the past few years have actually broadened the options for psychological torture. The Army Field Manual, revised in 2006, was widely acclaimed as a safeguard of rights, and Obama insists on it as the standard. But the new manual expands the possibilities for what is sometimes called “no-touch” torture. Prolonged isolation is legal for certain kinds of prisoners (those deemed “unlawful enemy combatants.”) The old Army Field Manual prohibited sleep deprivation. The new manual allows a regimen of four hours of sleep a day for up to thirty days for prisoners so classified. Because there is often a long lag time before prisoners are formally classified, sleep deprivation and isolation are apparently being applied across the board in the meantime. The 2006 manual also maintains as protocol decades-old methods of psychological torture. The manual instructs interrogators to induce helplessness and hopelessness in detainees and to exploit emotions, including the love of family. The 2006 manual suggests that interrogators exploit not just the fears already held by the detainee, as the old manual had advised, but new fears which interrogators themselves introduce.
Studies have shown that psychological torture is as damaging long term as physical torture. Without the shocking photos of naked men bleeding from dog bites, and with a president in office who has promised change, it is easy to become complacent. It is easy to remain complicit. It is easy to feel helpless, even hopeless, as revelations of torture emerge. Change has to come from us, and it can. Join forces with others working against torture. Speak out. Together we can make it stop.
Amnesty International is calling on the US government to close all loopholes that remain open for torture; to end secret detention and rendition; to reject indefinite detention; and to end the use of military commissions. Join Amnesty in calling for a commission of inquiry into the United States government’s use of torture, for the prosecution of those responsible, and for redress and remedy for the victims/survivors of human rights abuses. In addition to the prosecution of those responsible, redress and remedy includes establishing the fate and whereabouts of people who have disappeared; acknowledging the detention of those held in the CIA secret detention program and subsequently released; an official declaration or judicial decision restoring the dignity, reputation and rights of the victims; and a public apology, including acknowledgement of the facts and acceptance of responsibility. Join Amnesty International and become an active force for change.
Witness Against Torture works courageously at a grassroots level to raise awareness of torture and advocate for its end. In 2005 25 members of Witness Against Torture walked to Guantanamo in an attempt to visit the detention facility. In January 2010, protesting the missed deadline to close Guantanamo, 80 protesters with Witness Against Torture were arrested for civil disobedience on the steps of the Capitol. The civil disobedience was the culmination of eleven days of fasting, vigiling, and lobbying. On April 30 over 61 demonstrators were arrested in front of the White House as they protested the continuing torture and mistreatment of detainees. Watch the group taking their beliefs to the streets, stay informed by friending Witness Against Torture on Facebook, and consider getting involved.
The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) supports survivors of torture, offering access to medical care, helping with political asylum cases, providing housing and job counseling and groups for mutual support. TASSC’s goals are to end the practice of torture, wherever it occurs, and to empower survivors, their families, and their communities. TASSC responds to the immediate needs of torture survivors and helps them reintegrate into society and re-establish trust in themselves, others, and the world. Founded by torture survivors, TASSC has a speakers’ bureau so that people interested in learning what torture is and what it does can hear that information directly from someone who has experienced it. Support TASSC with donations and, if you are in the DC area, consider volunteering.
The Center for Constitional Rights (CCR) is working to hold health professionals accountable for their involvement in torture. CCR also is working toward accountability for all others responsible for detainees’ human rights violations while in US custody. CCR attorneys have represented many detainees and CCR continues to fight for their basic rights. The website lists actions you can take to help.
Psychologists for Social Responsibility is urging the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate US torture and prisoner abuse and the role of psychologists and the American Psychological Association in prisoner abuse. The organization is calling for the revocation of professional licenses and criminal prosecution for psychologists found to have been involved in the design, implementation, or justification of torture and other prisoner abuse. Sign the petition organized by Physicians for Human Rights calling for the creation of a commission to investigate US torture and to hold accountable psychologists and other health professionals who violated the primary ethic to “do no harm.
Physicians for Human Rights has an additional petition you can sign and has many well-researched reports:
The National Religious Coalition Against Torture (NRCAT) is a membership organization for religious and secular groups committed to putting an end to torture. NRCAT, along with 19 other organizations (including Human Rights First, Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch), is calling for a commission of inquiry to investigate US torture policies and practices. NRCAT is also calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor and trying to pass federal legislation granting the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees in US custody.
Human Rights Watch is working for human rights worldwide, on country-by-country basis. Human Right Watch documents and advocates for an immense range of human rights issues, among which is the illegal detentions at Guantánamo and related sites. Human Rights Watch issued a report on conditions in the prison in January 2009, entitled "Locked Up Alone."
World Can’t Wait has a petition available for signing decrying war crimes carried out by the Obama administration.
Psychologists for an Ethical APA has initiated a mass movement of resignation from the APA and has a petition on its website for psychologists who wish to resign. Here is an excerpt: “After years of struggling to reverse APA policies stemming from their complicity in illegal and inhumane detentions in the ‘war on terror,’ we have concluded that the APA has demonstrated such profound ethical failures that we can no longer, in good conscience, remain affiliated with the organization.”
Pax Christi is a Catholic membership organization that rejects war and all forms of violence and domination and works toward a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.
Freedetainees.org tracks individual detainee’s cases and advocates for just treatment. Read about individual cases and sign petitions to help each detainee.
Faithful America, an online organization mobilizing tens of thousands of people, was founded in June 2004, when Americans of faith raised $36,000 to place an advertisement on Arabic-language satellite television expressing regret to Muslims for the abuse committed by Americans at Abu Ghraib prison. The advertisement said: A Salaam A'alaykum ["Peace be with you" in Arabic]. As Americans of faith, we express our deep sorrow at abuses committed in Iraqi prisons. We stand in solidarity with all those in Iraq and everywhere who demand justice and human dignity. We condemn the sinful and systemic abuses committed in our name, and pledge to work to right these wrongs.”
Cageprisoners Ltd is a UK-based human rights organization that exists solely to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror. The site was launched in October 2003 during by individual Muslim volunteers. The group has the backing of both Muslim and non-Muslim lawyers, activists, former detainees, families of prisoners and academics. The organization’s goals include educating the public by being a comprehensive resource of information on Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror, highlighting their plight, and ensuring that they are never forgotten; campaigning for the repatriation or asylum for the Guantanamo Bay detainees in particular and that other prisoners are treated within the civilized norms of justice, and to ensure that they are given their due rights, including the right not to be torture, the right to fair, civilian trials, the right to access to medical personnel and the Red Cross, and the right to access to their families.
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