You Have Been Sentenced to…Paralysis?

After a violent fight broke out between two brothers two years ago in Saudi Arabia; one of the brothers was sentenced to seven months in prison during a trial where he did not receive legal representation. But the judge is thinking of adding another punishment — paralysis.

When one brother allegedly attacked the other with a cleaver, the victim was left paralyzed and in turn requested that the punishment for the aggressor resemble his injuries.  The judge in Tabuk, in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, has contacted several hospitals, inquiring as to their capacity to damage the man’s spinal cord in such a way to mimic the injuries of the victim.

One hospital reportedly said it would be possible to medically administer the injury at the same place on the spinal cord as the damage the man is alleged to have caused his victim. The King Khalud Hospital released a medical report saying they could injure the spinal cord with a nerve stimulant causing paralysis .

We have urged the Saudi authorities to not deliberately paralyze the man as punishment as it is a retributive punishment resembling torture.

Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are absolutely prohibited under international law and violates the United Nations Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party.

Saudi Arabia must not sentence this man to deliberate paralysis and adhere to international law regarding torture and inhumane punishment.

Call Obama on Torture Day

Today, June 26, is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In establishing the day in 1998, then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote, “Today the United Nations appeals to all governments and members of civil society to take action to defeat torture and torturers everywhere…This is a day in which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable.”

Murat Kurnaz is one such person who “endured the unimaginable.” The 19-year-old German resident was held for five years, without charge or trial, and tortured and abused. In his book “Five Years of My Life,” Kurnaz wrote:

“They prepared me for interrogations by putting electric shocks through my feet. For hours on end they would hang me up by my hands, which were bound behind my back in different positions and then a break, and then you would be hung up again. “

Who did this to him?  Egypt? China? Iran? Myanmar? No, the United States of America. The quote describes Kurnaz’s treatment by US personnel in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Under the UN Convention Against Torture, the US government is obligated by law to investigate and prosecute torture, and to provide remedy to torture victims.

Yet Murat Kurnaz’s allegations of torture and abuse have never been properly investigated; those responsible for ordering and creating the US torture program have not been prosecuted; and the US government has claimed that victims of US torture have no right to remedy, or even an apology.

President Obama has said he wants to look forward, not back. President Obama has rejected an independent commission of inquiry into the US torture program. President Obama has left open loopholes for torture.

This is not acceptable. Not for Americans, not for foot soldiers who have taken the fall, not for the world, not for the rule of law, not for Murat Kurnaz or the hundreds or thousands of others who have been tortured by the US.

“Our national honor is stained by the indignity and inhumane treatment these men received from their captors…The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

– Major General Antonio Taguba, US Army (Ret.), in his Preface to “Broken Laws, Broken Lives,” by Physicians for Human Rights.

There is still hope that President Obama will change course: he will do what it takes to get re-elected, so if the American public stands up for accountability for torture, then he will too.

Stand up with us: join Amnesty International members across America in marking International Day in Support of Victims of Torture by calling the White House comment line right now and urging President Obama to investigate and prosecute torture, and provide remedy to victims. Click here for the number and script.

Obama's Mixed Messages on Torture & Abuse

The President on counterterrorism policy, after 100 days in office: No more torture, or loopholes galore? Important symbolic steps, or stalling tactics? Heading in the right direction, or Barack “Dubya” Obama?

Pundits are coming at President Obama from all sides, but after 100 days in office, what’s really going on?

Well, one important way to judge is on the basis of international human rights law–including the U.N. Convention Against Torture–and on that standard it’s clear: President Obama has a lot more to do. Scratch that. President Obama has a lot more he is legally obligated to do.

Read all about it in Amnesty International’s new report, “Mixed Messages: Counter Terror and Human Rights–President Obama’s First 100 Days.” OK, it’s a long report so here’s the take away, President Obama needs to:

  • Charge Guantanamo detainees and give them fair trials in US federal courts, or release them;
  • Respect the rights of detainees at other US facilities, like Bagram in Afghanistan;
  • Ensure that the US will never again resort to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment–as defined by international law;
  • Ensure accountability for torture and other human rights violations through: an independent commission of inquiry; prosecutions where warranted; and redress and remedy for victims.

Our message isn’t mixed: President Obama must respect and protect human rights. It’s up to us to make sure it happens.