Ethiopia, Tanzania & Zambia: Arrest Former President Bush for Torture

Protest Bush Canada

Activists protest former President Bush's visit to Canada

Yesterday, Amnesty International urged the governments of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia to arrest former US President George W. Bush for crimes under international law, including torture, when he visits this week. (Amnesty International has made the same request of Switzerland and Canada during the former President’s trips to those countries.)

Now I know what you’re thinking: it’s not gonna happen. If the US government won’t arrest former President Bush for torture—President Obama has said he wants to look forward, not backward—why would some other country stick its neck out? Well, there is precedent for such an arrest (read: Chilean General Augusto Pinochet); it’s up to regular people like us to demand it.

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Three Words of Omission When It Comes to Torture

By Matthew Alexander, former senior military interrogator

Matthew Alexander

Since the killing of Osama bin Laden last month in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the torture supporters have been out in full force to credit the success to Bush Administration policies such as torture.

Retired General Michael Hayden wrote in the Wall Street Journal that to deny that waterboarding provided important intelligence information is the equivalent of being a birther.  And Retired Army Major General Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor Recipient from Vietnam, argued that waterboarders are heroes in a recent Op-Ed in the San Antonio online forum.  They join the ranks of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Marc Thiessen, Michael Mukasey, and, of course, the former President himself, George W. Bush.

But I challenge you to search all the articles and interviews done by these men for three key phrases: 1) World War II interrogators, 2) Long-Term, and 3) George Washington.  You won’t find them.  And there’s a reason why.

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Thinking in an emergency: The principles of mutual protection

Excerpted from Thinking in an Emergency, the inaugural book in the Amnesty International Global Ethics Series by Elaine Scarry.

Photograph by flickr user michaelwhays, Creative Commons licenses

As a child growing up in the high hills of South India, Rae Langton used to walk to school side by side with a friend. So did all the other children. They could be seen each day moving two by two along the pathways in a long undulating line, chattering, laughing, holding hands. The children called it walking “in croq” because collectively they moved like a crocodile toward their shared destination.

Overnight this practice changed. Walking in croq was suddenly prohibited. The flow of schoolchildren could still be seen each day as they made their way across the terraced hillside, but now they moved in single file or in atomized clusters of two or three.

Walking two by two in a line was construed to be a form of assembly, and the right of assembly—as well as India’s other fundamental rights—had been suspended as of midnight, June 25, 1975. The mountain town of Ooty is 2,000 kilometers from the seat of government in Delhi, but Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s act had entered directly into the texture of the schoolchildren’s lives. The children of this town were not privy to the severe abuses and injuries that would now take place: the cutting of electricity to opposition newspapers, the imposition of severe censorship once the electricity was restored, the detaining of thousands of persons without charge and without release of their names, the involuntary sterilization of many who were detained. But despite their separation from the site of grave injury, the children had a physical sign in their environment that some profound change had just come about.

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DNA Test Exposes Execution Based on Bad Evidence

Claude Jones was sentenced to death based on one hair.  That hair, prosecutors insisted, was his, and placed him at the scene of a 1989 killing at an East Texas liquor store.  Now, 10 years after his Dec. 7, 2000 execution, the Texas Observer reports that DNA tests have concluded that the hair was the victim’s, not his.  Normally, after someone is put to death, no tests are carried to determine if the execution was wrongful.  These tests were only carried out as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Observer, the Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas and the Texas Innocence Network.

Jones was a career criminal who was involved in a plot to rob the store.  But to execute him, Texas needed to convict him of the murder, and for that they relied of the forensic technique of hair matching, something we now know to be a kind of junk science.    This week’s DNA results, which directly contradict the conclusions drawn by the state’s forensic hair expert,  do not CONCLUSIVELY prove Jones’ innocence in the killing (since they don’t implicate an alternative suspect), but they do mean that there is now no physical evidence tying Jones to the crime for which he was put to death.

In the hours leading up to his execution, Jones had asked for a DNA test of this lone hair, but the courts rejected that request, and then Governor George W. Bush declined to intervene.  Interestingly, it appears that Governor Bush’s lawyers neglected to mention the request for DNA testing in the memo they gave him.  Bush had previously granted a reprieve to allow DNA testing, so we are left to wonder what he might have done in this case, if he had known.

We do know now that, as in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, Claude Jones was convicted on the basis of fundamentally flawed evidence.  And, despite the existence of appeal courts, the clemency process, real DNA science, and other supposed safeguards, his execution could not be stopped.

Hey Bush: If Waterboarding's So Great, Put this Video in Your Museum!

Warning: This video is not suitable for children. Do not try this at home.

Last night in a TV interview former President Bush reiterated that he personally approved waterboarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and would do it again.

According to Bush, “the lawyer said it was legal.” Try that defense the next time you’re accused of a crime. It should become one of the great catchphrases of our time, the “Where’s the beef?” of the aughts.

Bush also said waterboarding saved lives. First of all, even if it did it’s still wrong and a crime. Second, where’s the proof?  Actual military interrogators say torture cost American lives.

Bush is just trying to cover his butt from being prosecuted for torture.

Let’s call him out:

Email the waterboarding video above to Bush’s Presidential Library and Museum at  museum.gwbush@nara.gov.

I’m going to include the message “Torture is part of President George W. Bush’s legacy. Please add this video of waterboarding to his museum.”

What will you say? Let us know in the comments.

Top 10 Things You Wanted to Know About UNCAT but Were Afraid to Ask

There’s been talk recently of  George W. Bush’s admission in his new memoir that he personally approved the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and whether the U.N. Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) obligates the U.S. government to prosecute him for the crime of torture.

Decide for yourself: read the Q & A below and let us know what YOU think in the comment section.

1. What is the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)?

The acronym UNCAT is a shortened version of The United Nations Convention against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The UNCAT is an international human rights instrument which mandates a global prohibition on torture and creates an instrument to monitor governments and hold them to account.

2. So, what does the UNCAT actually do?

The UNCAT defines what is meant by torture, bans the use of torture, cruel and degrading treatment, bans refoulement (the extradition of individuals at risk to countries where they may face torture), requires governments to actively prevent torture, requires governments to investigate torture allegations, requires governments to provide remedy to torture victims and establishes an appropriate UN committee to deal with issues of redress, monitoring and investigation.

3. What is meant by torture?

The UNCAT defines torture as, “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”

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