Meditation Focus #157

Banning Torture Forever


What follows is the 157th Meditation Focus suggested for the next 2 weeks beginning Sunday, September 17, 2006.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus
4. Peace Vigil for Darfur



GaiaField Meditation and Prayer Vigil 2006
If you resonate with the purpose of this special event, please participate to a global ritual for peace this coming Thursday, September 21, 2006, from 3.30-4.30pm GMT, in honor of the International Day of Peace. Details at


As we each live in our own individual "bubble of reality", we tend to overlook many issues that matters for the well being of countless human beings. One of these issues is the continuing recourse to torture as a means of political repression, amongst other reasons. The degree of cruelty reported and the prevalence of torture worldwide have now reached levels that are deeply disturbing despite years of campaigning by human rights organizations and an international ban on such practices. Unless torture and all other degrading treatments of human beings are rapidly curbed and eventually banned forever from the face of the Earth, true peace and global brotherhood will never materialize.

This situation could take a turn for the worst if blatant efforts by the current US Administration to legalize the use of torture under the guise of fighting alleged terrorists are not prevented from succeeding. Arm twisting and fear-mongering tactics designed to put a legal fig leaf in front of the repeated violations of current US laws and international conventions banning torture by those now putting pressure to have these laws repealed are the signs of people who are desperate to cover their tracks and protect themselves from the consequences of their inhumane acts. Should the widespread opposition to this proposed bill fail to prevent US lawmakers from approving it, not only will torturers and their political bosses worldwide be encouraged to expand their activities, but even US citizens will be at risk of falling into the grip of similar tormentors in their own country as the dark cloud of fascism will further increase its reach.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following Sunday to contribute in creating a strong shield of Light and goodwill against the malevolent aims of the dark beings advocating the use of torture. Let us envision a world free from all forms of violence against humans as well as against all other forms of Life, a world where benevolence reigns supreme, a world where caring, compassion and love for each other is the only acceptable behavior in all circumstances, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at

"There can be zero tolerance for torture. If we are to live in a truly civilized world, we must all hold fast to this basic principle. Yet torture continues today in more than 150 nations, and there are growing efforts by many governments, including the United States, to de facto legalize torture. The fact that the United States government now openly authorizes torture has created a global human rights crisis of frightening dimensions. This gives a green light to other nations to torture with impunity. Torture is illegal under international law as well as the US constitution and laws. Torture does not strengthen security. By sowing the seeds of trauma and hatred around the world, torture only leads to further violence."

- Adapted from


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes. Please dedicate the last few minutes of your Sunday meditation to the healing of the Earth as a whole. See the Earth as healthy and vibrant with life, and experience the healing of all relations as we awaken globally to the sacredness of all Life and to our underlying unity with All That Is.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below correspond to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage 7:00 AM -- Los Angeles 8:00 AM -- Denver 9:00 AM -- San Salvador, Mexico City, Houston & Chicago 10:00 AM -- New York, Toronto & Montreal 11:00 AM -- Halifax, Santo Domingo, La Paz & Caracas 12:00 PM -- Montevideo, Asuncion * & Santiago * 1:00 PM -- Rio de Janeiro * 2:00 PM -- London, Dublin, Lisbon, Reykjavik & Casablanca 4:00 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, Geneva, Rome, Berlin, Paris & Madrid 5:00 PM -- Ankara, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Athens, Helsinki & Istanbul 6:00 PM -- Baghdad, Moscow & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Tehran 7:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 AM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington * +5:00 AM

You may also check at to find your corresponding local time if a nearby city is not listed above.


This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.


1. Stampeding Congress
2. Derelict On Detainees
3. Torture around the world
4. U.S. Policy of Abuse Undermines Rights Worldwide

See also:

Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition
TASSC International is a coalition of torture survivors, currently representing more than 60 countries and ethnic groups. In the spirit of nonviolence we: - Work towards the abolition of torture and ill treatment currently practiced by more than 150 governments. - Work toward the implementation of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, and all other treaties and conventions pertaining to the eradication of torture. - Break the silence surrounding torture through education, advocacy, and legislation. - Call for an end to military assistance and arms sales to governments that use torture. - Call for an end to impunity for those who torture and order torture.

Human Rights Watch - Defending Human Rights Worldwide

Amnesty International

USA: Government must end all secret detention and guarantee fair trials
The US government must clarify the fate and whereabouts of all people who have been secretly detained and guarantee fair trials for all people in its custody. "President Bush has finally admitted what has long been reported – that, in the 'war on terror', the USA has been resorting to secret detentions and enforced disappearance, which is a crime under international law," said Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan on 7 September 2006. The organization was responding to the announcement on 6 September by President Bush stating that 14 men held in secret CIA custody have been transferred to Guantánamo. In his address, President Bush indicated that the 14 would be brought to trial. President Bush is pressing the US Congress to pass legislation authorizing the use of military commissions to try terror suspects, following the US Supreme Court’s ruling in June that the commissions he had established were unlawful. "Congress should authorize nothing -- unfair trial procedures, indefinite executive detention or impunity for human rights violations committed -- that conflicts with international law or standards", Irene Khan said. "It must ensure full accountability for past actions and the full lawfulness of future actions." The US has the right and duty to bring to justice anyone responsible for crimes, including the crime against humanity that was committed on 11 September 2001. It must do so in a manner that respects human rights and the rule of law. Secret detention; enforced disappearance; torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; indefinite detention without charge; and unfair trials are all prohibited under international law. "Amnesty International has been calling for a full independent commission of inquiry, with international expert input, into all the USA's 'war on terror' detention and interrogation practices. President Bush's admission that the US government has used secret detention highlights the urgent need for such an investigation, rather than for new laws 'legalising" such action," said Irene Khan.A special prosecutor should also be appointed to conduct a criminal investigation into the conduct of any US personnel, including administration officials, against whom there is evidence of involvement in crimes in the "war on terror". It is not enough that the President says that the USA does not torture. CLIP

Stop 'rendition' and secret detention
"Thus, across the world, the USA has progressively woven a clandestine 'spider's web' of disappearances, secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers, often emcompassing countries notorious for their use of torture. Hundreds of persons have become entrapped in this web."
- Council of Europe Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, 7 June 2006.
The USA and many other states are involved in the unlawful practice of "rendition" that, in the context of the "war on terror", has led to numerous men being secretly flown to countries where they have suffered torture or other ill-treatment and prolonged detention without charge. Some victims of rendition have subsequently turned up in official US detention centres, such as Guantánamo Bay. Others have simply "disappeared" after being arrested by US agents or turned over to US custody. About 25 rendition cases have so far become public. Based on the available evidence however, the number of victims of rendition is likely to be in hundreds. CLIP

Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the "War on Terror" Video Documentary - 27 minutes
Human rights groups and several public inquiries in Europe have found the U.S. government, with the complicity of numerous governments worldwide, to be engaged in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture. The U.S. government-sponsored program of renditions is an unlawful practice in which numerous persons have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional human rights abuses including torture and enforced disappearance. No one knows the exact number of persons affected, due to the secrecy under which the operations are carried out.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) called for a full accounting of the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition, in anticipation of the release of an official Canadian investigation into the case of Maher Arar.“Extraordinary rendition is simply the outsourcing of torture, and this repugnant practice must be stopped in the United States, in Canada, and everywhere it is used,” Rep. Markey said. “It took a Supreme Court ruling to force the Bush Administration to finally acknowledge the existence of secret incarcerations in black sites overseas-- now the time has come to admit the secret interrogations carried out by proxy in countries known to use torture. I look forward to the release of the Canadian Commission’s report, which could prove to be a crucial tool for the world to understand the actions of the Canadian and U.S. governments in relation to the horrific experiences suffered by Maher Arar and others.” CLIP

At least 59 killed As U.S. occupation grinds on (Sept 15, 2006)
The bodies of 50 people, most of them bearing signs of torture with a single gunshot to the head, were found in the last 24 hours across Baghdad

Hey George
Cindy Sheehan writes to George W. Bush: "Torture is a crime against humanity, George, and information gained from torture is highly compromised and not even admissible in a court of law, so basically, the information you have been cruelly gleaning from 'suspected' terrorists is useless in protecting America."

Protecting the Torturers: Bad Faith and Distortions From the American Psychological Association (September 13, 2006)

ONE MAN AGAINST THE WORLD - A Visit with the UN's Torture Cop,1518,408472,00.html
Manfred Nowak, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, travels the world to expose human rights violations in so-called "rogue states." Now he is directing his attention at the United States. When asked where torture conditions are cruelest in the world, Manfred Nowak frowns. Perhaps in Mongolia, he replies, thoughtfully. There, death row prisoners are abandoned for weeks at a time with their hands and feet bound. "Someone who's waiting to be executed doesn't need to be made to suffer in that way," he says. For the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, a 55-year-old lawyer, human agony -- abused bodies, crushed skulls, broken bones -- is a daily concern. The post the UN Human Rights Commission assigned to him a year ago is a difficult one. For the next three years, he will work without pay to enforce the worldwide ban on torture. His work will take him to places where civilization ends and barbarity begins: the dungeons of countries that could care less about human rights. "There are quite a few of them," he says. (...) Each week, Nowak receives hundreds of calls for help from desperate relatives all over the world, via his UN office in Geneva. When the frequency of the reports increases, the torture expert pays a visit to the politically powerful and asks to be allowed into the dark world of penal institutions. Amazingly enough, he is often allowed in. Speaking to detainees, including those on death row, he traces the brutal paths of violence. "Torture," he says, "takes many forms."Sometimes bare fists ram into defenseless bodies, sometimes rifle butts come crushing down on heads. Little could be more painful than when genitalia are wired up to electric currents. Burning cigarettes dig into raw flesh. And sometimes revolver barrels are thrust into open mouths of prisoners -- the trigger is pulled in a mock execution, putting the victim in a total state of mental agony.But can torture be reduced to physical violence? There are subtler forms of the cruel craft, as the UN rapporteur has discovered repeatedly during his globetrotting travels. (...) Nowak was the first UN delegate to be given permission by Beijing to visit the countless penal institutions scattered across the country. Members of the political opposition and dissidents of every kind are mercilessly locked away in the country. Re-education is the mantra the Communist Party invokes to secure its claim to total authority. The documented cases of abuse are countless. A respected businesswoman from the western Chinese city of Urumqi was placed in solitary confinement for years because she had spoken to members of the United States Congress about her country's desolate human rights record. Day after day she had to sit on a small wooden stool and stare motionless at the ground for hours on end. CLIP



Also from:

Stampeding Congress

The New York Times | Editorial

15 September 2006

We'll find out in November how well the White House's be-very-afraid campaign has been working with voters. We already know how it's working in Congress. Stampeded by the fear of looking weak on terrorism, lawmakers are rushing to pass a bill demanded by the president that would have minimal impact on antiterrorist operations but could cause profound damage to justice and the American way.

Yesterday, the president himself went to Capitol Hill to lobby for his bill, which would give Congressional approval to the same sort of ad hoc military commissions that Mr. Bush created on his own authority after 9/11 and that the Supreme Court has already ruled unconstitutional. It would permit the use of coerced evidence, secret hearings and other horrific violations of American justice.

Legal experts within the military have been deeply opposed to the president's plan from the beginning, and have formed one of the most influential bulwarks against the administration's attempt to rewrite the rules to make its recent behavior retroactively legal. This week, the White House sank so low as to strong-arm the chief prosecutors for the four armed services into writing a letter to the House that seemed to endorse the president's position on two key issues. Congressional officials say those officers later told lawmakers that they did not want to sign the letter, which contradicts everything the prosecutors, dozens of their colleagues, former top commanders of the military and a series of federal judges have said in public.

The idea that the nation's chief executive is pressing so hard to undermine basic standards of justice is shocking. And any argument that these extreme methods would be used only against the most dangerous of international terrorists has been destroyed by the handling of hundreds of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, many of whom appear to have been scooped up in Afghanistan years ago with little attempt to verify any connection to terrorism, and now are in danger of lingering behind bars forever without a day in court.

To lend his lobbying an utterly false sense of urgency, President Bush announced last week that he had taken 14 dangerous terrorists from the secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons where he had been holding them for years and sent them to Guantánamo to stand trial. But none of the prisoners is going anywhere, and the current high-pressure timetable is related only to the election calendar.

The Geneva Conventions

One section of the administration bill would put American soldiers in grave jeopardy by rewriting the Geneva Conventions, condoning the practice of hiding prisoners in secret cells, and permitting the continued use of interrogation methods that violate the Geneva Conventions at the C.I.A. prisons.

Mr. Bush has made it clear that he plans to continue operating the C.I.A. camps. And he wants Congress to collaborate by exempting the United States from a provision in the Geneva Conventions that prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." Mr. Bush says this wording is too vague, but that's a dodge. What he really wants is Congressional authority to go on doing things to prisoners in C.I.A. jails that are clear violations of international rules.

He also wants Congress to rewrite the War Crimes Act, which makes it a crime to violate the Geneva Conventions. The administration's goal here is to avoid having C.I.A. interrogators, private contractors or the men who gave them their orders called to account for the immoral way the administration has run its terrorist detention centers.

The opposition to these provisions by legal scholars, military lawyers and a host of former top commanders of the armed forces has been overwhelming. In recent days, two former chairmen of the joint chiefs of staff, Colin L. Powell, and John W. Vessey, wrote to Senator John McCain urging him to go on fighting the White House. "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism," General Powell wrote.

More than two dozen former military leaders and top Pentagon officials, from both parties, wrote to Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, expressing "profound concern" about undermining the Geneva Conventions. Their objections involve a simple equation: The Conventions protect captured American soldiers. If America mistreats its prisoners, American soldiers are in danger of the same, or worse.

Defining the Enemy

Senators Warner, McCain and Lindsey Graham have formed a principled spine of resistance against their party's attempt to steamroller the White House legislation through Congress. But their own bill - the only competing proposal to emerge so far - shares some big problems with the president's. One is its scope. Both bills draw the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" so broadly that it could cover almost anyone that a particular administration decides is a threat, remove him from the judicial system and subject him to a military trial.

The law should cover actual terrorists and those who engage in hostilities against American forces outside an army or organized resistance group. But the White House bill also includes anyone who gives "material support" to a terrorist group or anyone affiliated with a terrorist group. Legal experts fear this definition could cover people who, for example, contribute to charities without knowing they support terrorist groups, or that are not identified as terrorist fronts until later. It could be used to arrest a legal resident of the United States and put him before a military commission.

It also could be used to capture foreign citizens in their native countries, or anywhere else, a concern that America's allies have raised repeatedly. This is not just a theoretical problem. This sort of thing has already happened.

Stripping the Courts of Power

The White House wants to strip the federal courts of any power to review the detentions of the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay. This provision has no real bearing on the handful of genuine terrorists who were recently shipped there from abroad. Their cases are likely to be brought before military commissions, whose judgments could be appealed to higher courts, including the Supreme Court. But it has a profound impact on the hundreds of others at Guantánamo Bay. Many of them, perhaps the majority, committed minor offenses, if any. The administration has no intention of trying them, and wants to prevent them from appealing for help in court.

This week, nine current and former federal judges, including a former F.B.I. director appointed by Ronald Reagan, begged Congress not to give in to White House pressure on this point. "For 200 years, the federal judiciary has maintained Chief Justice Marshall's solemn admonition that ours is a government of laws, and not of men," their letter said. "The proposed legislation imperils this proud history."

The nation is in this hideous mess because Mr. Bush ignored the advice of people like this when he tried to set up prison camps beyond the reach of the law. It's hard to believe their warnings will be ignored again, but the signs are ominous. Last week, the military's top lawyers told the House Armed Services Committee that they strongly opposed the rules of evidence and other due-process clauses in the White House's bill. The committee just went ahead and passed it anyway. Only eight of the 28 Democratic members had the courage to vote "no."

Bill Frist, the majority leader, has already introduced the horrible White House bill on the Senate floor. Senators Warner, McCain and Graham have come up with a serious alternative, and they deserve enormous credit for standing up to Mr. Bush's fearmongering - something many Democrats seem too frightened to do. (It was good to see the Senate Armed Services Committee Democrats join them in rejecting the president's bill yesterday.)

But their bill still has serious shortcomings, and should not be rushed through Congress in the current atmosphere, which has very little to do with stopping terrorists and everything to do with winning seats in November.

There is no urgency. Mr. Bush could have tried the 14 new inmates of Guantánamo Bay at any time if he had just done it legally. It's hard to imagine that anyone in the White House is really worried about a swift resolution of their cases. Many members of Congress who succumb to the strong-arming will know, in their hearts, that they were doing the wrong thing out of fear for their political futures. Perhaps the voters will not judge them harshly this fall. But history will.


See also:

The Content of Our Character
Brecher and Smith warn: "Republican support for a law that countenances torture, prisoner abuse and repudiation of the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions could provide an important issue for Democratic Congressional candidates. But Democratic House candidates can't criticize Republicans if they are supporting Bush's legislation themselves - as a majority of Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee have done."



Derelict On Detainees

Aziz Huq

September 15, 2006

Aziz Huq directs the Liberty and National Project at the Brennan Center for Justice He is co-author of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in Times of Terror (New Press, 2007), and recipient of a 2006 Carnegie Scholars Fellowship.

Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted out a bill labeled “the Military Commission Act of 2006.” Media attention in leading East and West Coast papers generally lauded the senators’ supposed new-found spine, standing up to the president’s suggested rules on military commissions for alleged terrorists seized overseas. But is this really a victory for measured moderation? On closer inspection, it turns out the bill that came out of committee is, in most important respects, practically a blank check when it comes to executive detention authority.

Rather than keeping us safer, this legislation is another obstacle to solving the problem Britain’s Lord Falconer recently called a “shocking affront to the principles of democracy.” The Warner bill (also backed by Sens. McCain and Graham) contains provisions that seem to delegate to the president sweeping detention powers. These sweeping detention powers apply to both past and future decisions. They would permit the administration to bury the fact that it has swallowed up tens or hundreds of people during its counterterrorism operations who have little or no connection to actual terrorism.

Two key provisions are the most alarming. First is Section 6, which seeks to end any and all judicial review of overseas detention of non-citizens. This section undoes the flawed bipartisan compromise enacted in December 2005, the Detainee Treatment Act. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court declared that this bill closed the door to future cases from detainees held overseas, but left alone ongoing proceedings that were being litigated in the federal courts. The Warner bill would try to shut the litigation door entirely—stopping deliberation of cases that have not yet been fully decided.

Most distressing, this cuts off pending court challenges by Guantánamo detainees on the factual basis of their detentions. These cases matter tremendously because they are the only meaningful chance many detainees will ever have to explain that they are innocent. And there is compelling evidence that many of these detainees are, indeed, improperly detained.

During combat operations in Afghanistan, American forces offered bounties of up to U.S.$5,000 for al-Qaida suspects. Then, the White House decided to forego the battlefield “status tribunal”—known as “Article 5 proceedings”—that are mandated under international law to distinguish combatants from aid workers, journalists, and others accidentally swept up in a conflict. (Why? Because, as administration officials told New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, to prove that they had the sheer, unfettered power to do so). The net result? Rather than the “worst of the worst” that the administration claimed to have netted, the Guantánamo camp is in fact full of Taliban cooks conscripted into duty boiling rice and baking bread, and Afghan shepherds swept in by those seeking bounties. That’s why of the 10 people who were to be tried in military commissions at first, only one had in fact engaged in anything remotely resembling combat.

Only this week, the Center for Constitution Rights released a telling facebook, documenting the cases of detainees for whom there is substantial evidence of wrongful detention. Yet Warner's bill would ensure that these men—although some were scant more than boys when captured—will never get a chance to show they are wrongly detained. And the administration will never have to face the political embarrassment of backing off from its claim to holding the worst of the worst. Narrow partisan gain will prevail above the compelling need for simple fairness.

The second deeply troubling part of Warner extends this unchecked detention authority into the future: Not only non-citizens, but also U.S. citizens in the United States would be vulnerable to seizure and unending lock-up at the president’s whim.

A provision of the bill defines “unlawful enemy combatants” to include those “engaged in hostilities against the United States.” This definition is significant because it makes non-citizen “unlawful enemy combatants” the only category of persons subject to trial by military commission. So it might see that the definition has a limited purpose, as a gateway to commissions. But the Supreme Court in 2004 suggested that an “enemy combatant” could also be detained for the length of the relevant hostilities. The bill, in other words, could well be read not only to define who can be tried, but also who can be detained.

Still, at first blush, the bill might seem reasonable. After all, surely it’s fair to seize and hold those who are on the battlefield and fighting against the United States. But is that all it would cover? Hardly. The bill contains a critical gap: It contains no definition of hostilities. Other provisions of the bill seem to suggest that the definition of “hostilities” is much, much broader than the traditionally understood battlefield. “Hostilities” could well be defined in terms of the crimes listed as possible charges in military commissions. This would make, for example, someone who “wrongfully aids” an “enemy” of the United States an “unlawful enemy combatant.” A Miami grandmother sending money to relations in Cuba—which is an “enemy”—might well fall under the act. Another of the offenses listed for military commissions is “material support,” a vague and broad part of the criminal law that could include behavior as disparate as hosting a website to providing advice about how to respect humanitarian law and human rights.

Read in this expansive way, Warner establishes an open-ended authority to detain both citizens and non-citizens on the loosest of charges. Ironically, while it would only allow non-citizens to be tried in military commissions, citizens such as Jose Padilla, seized in the United States, can’t be tried but could merely be kept locked up—forever.

At a very minimum, Warner would allow any non-citizen lawfully present in the United States to be shunted into a second-tier criminal justice system for a broad gamut of vaguely defined offenses. For the first time in American history, a whole class of people would be subject to a second-class system of military justice for criminal offenses routinely prosecuted in the criminal justice system.

The irony of this legislation, in short, is this: A group of moderate conservatives are signing a blank check over to the president to detain U.S. citizens forever and to subject millions of non-citizens into a second-class criminal justice system. Precisely what the Bush administration has done to merit this extraordinary level of confidence is unclear. What is clear is the dramatic break from America’s traditions of liberty from unchecked indefinite detention. 

To be sure, the bill, sponsored by Senator Warner and championed by McCain and Graham, contains better military commission procedures, provisions the administration has resisted. And for that, sections of the bill should be applauded.  Unlike the administration’s proposed legislation, the Warner bill would not permit defendants to be convicted based on evidence gleaned by torture. Nor would it allow defendants to be excluded from large portions of their own trials. 

But how many detainees would ever come before a military commission? Recall that the bill gives the administration power to hold the Guantánamo detainees indefinitely. Given the choice of indefinite detention and putting its allegations in a public criminal proceeding, which will the administration choose?  It’s not hard to guess. If Warner passes, we should expect to see a handful of trials, including those of some high-value detainees —and then silence.

Military commissions have received the lion’s share of public attention, largely thanks to President Bush’s decision   to move 14 so-called “high value” detainees to Guantánamo, a masterful maneuver that succeeded in changing the conversation from a debate over the prolonged detention of innocent people at the Cuban facility to answering the question: “What do we do about bad guys?” 

The president’s political theater should not distract from what is at stake when the Senate and House vote on Warner: whether we should entrust the executive blindly with tremendous detention powers both now and in the future. It is a question that ought to hang heavy on the mind of every senator and representative, whether conservative or liberal, as this terrible bill makes its way to the floor.


April 7, 2006

Torture around the world

Governments are often more reluctant to discuss torture than to practice it


“Once the leading governmental defender of human rights around the world, the U.S. government has now become the most influential abuser.” -- Kenneth Roth

“I’m not going to address the ‘torture’ word,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said during a news conference in May 2004. Earlier, in response to disclosures about the events at Abu Ghraib, he insisted that “what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture.”

Secretary Rumsfeld’s remarks demonstrated how governments are often more reluctant to discuss torture than to practice it. But in light of the controversy over U.S. treatment of captives in the war on terror, and abuse of prisoners in countries around the world, several new books remind us of the need to consider what constitutes torture, whether it is ever justified, and what alternatives there are in dealing with dangerous movements that threaten innocent people.

Torture, an anthology compiled by Human Rights Watch, contains 16 essays on topics that include the history of the practice, how it’s used in various countries, and moral arguments for and against it. People who think it’s exclusively directed at suspected terrorists or political dissidents may be shocked to learn that in Egypt, torture is used on men suspected of homosexual behavior and on street children. And while Israeli human rights activist Eitan Felner says the 1987 report of the Landau Commission made his country the only one at the end of the 20th century “officially to sanction the intentional infliction of pain and suffering during interrogation,” Human Rights Watch’s executive director, Kenneth Roth, says Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s statement during his confirmation hearings last year made the U.S. government the only one “to publicly claim as a matter of policy the power to use cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.”

In A Question of Torture, University of Wisconsin history professor Alfred W. McCoy documents the CIA’s use of abusive interrogation techniques during the past 50 years. He notes that when these practices were made public during the Vietnam War and after, the issue died down following an initial flurry. The current debate, Professor McCoy says, is more far-reaching and gives the United States an opportunity to either join the international community in repudiating torture or continue its practice clandestinely in the hope of gaining useful information without negative publicity.

Professor McCoy also challenges the pragmatic argument, noting that FBI interrogators have apparently been more successful than the CIA in gaining useful information from captives without resorting to torture. And purely from a cost-benefit analysis, he notes that 30 months after the events of 9/11, U.S. authorities had arrested 5,000 terror suspects, found evidence to charge only three, and obtained only one conviction. This, he says, raises the possibility of torturing 4,999 victims for every true terrorist interrogated.

In a 1982 essay titled “The Case for Torture,” philosopher Michael Levin wrote, “Someday soon a terrorist will threaten tens of thousands of lives, and torture will be the only way to save them.” More recently, this “ticking time bomb” scenario has been used by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz to propose the use of warrants to regulate the use of torture. However, Professor McCoy says this hypothesis rests on an unlikely group of variables, including the certainty of having captured a terrorist, the time left before the planned attack, and the terrorist’s detailed knowledge of the specifics of the plan, which can be used to thwart it. “Such an extraordinary string of coincidences probably never has and never will occur,” he writes.

Jesuit Fr. John Perry, professor of ethics at the University of Manitoba, Canada, offers theological and philosophical perspectives on the issue in Torture: Religious Ethics and National Security. While declaring that torture is “horribly evil,” he distinguishes the practice from the practitioner. The torturer is “deeply involved in an evil system,” Fr. Perry says, but “may not be an evil person.”

The church has a checkered history of being on both sides of the issue of torture. Its condemnation by Pope Nicholas I in 866 was “for the first time in Western culture a clear formulation of the idea that torture should be suppressed,” Fr. Perry writes. However, he notes, the practice was subsequently justified by three popes in the 13th century.

In the late 20th century, a Brazilian torturer justified the practice by saying, “Brazil is a Catholic country. In Brazil they are used to this kind of behavior -- like torture, for example -- because Catholic churches tortured people for years and years, centuries and centuries.” In contrast, in 2000 Pope John Paul II led a “Confession of Sins Committed in the Service of the Church.” And it was then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who was given the task at that time of confessing “the use of force in the service of truth.”

These books are not pleasant fare, particularly when they force the reader to confront such statements as the charge by Mr. Roth of Human Rights Watch that “once the leading governmental defender of human rights around the world, the U.S. government has now become the most influential abuser.” However, there is also hope. Fr. Perry writes that “with the sincerity and humility of a reformed sinner, the church has positioned itself today to be a strong advocate for human rights and to warn those involved in the state-sanctioned use of torture” about its consequences. “To ask someone to degrade and deface the image of God in a man or woman,” he says, “is to exact a double violation of both the tortured and the torturer.”



Human Rights Watch World Report 2006

U.S. Policy of Abuse Undermines Rights Worldwide

(Washington, D.C, January 18, 2006) – New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2006 .

The evidence showed that abusive interrogation cannot be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior U.S. government officials. The policy has hampered Washington’s ability to cajole or pressure other states into respecting international law, said the 532-page volume’s introductory essay.  
“Fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “But using illegal tactics against alleged terrorists is both wrong and counterproductive.”  
Roth said the illegal tactics were fueling terrorist recruitment, discouraging public assistance of counterterrorism efforts and creating a pool of unprosecutable detainees.  
U.S. partners such as Britain and Canada compounded the lack of human rights leadership by trying to undermine critical international protections. Britain sought to send suspects to governments likely to torture them based on meaningless assurances of good treatment. Canada sought to dilute a new treaty outlawing enforced disappearances. The European Union continued to subordinate human rights in its relationships with others deemed useful in fighting terrorism, such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.  
Many countries – Uzbekistan, Russia and China among them – used the “war on terrorism” to attack their political opponents, branding them as “Islamic terrorists.”  
Human Rights Watch documented many serious abuses outside the fight against terrorism. In May, the government of Uzbekistan massacred hundreds of demonstrators in Andijan, the Sudanese government consolidated “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur, western Sudan, and persistent atrocities were reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chechnya. Severe repression continued in Burma, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Tibet and Xinjiang in China, while Syria and Vietnam maintained tight restrictions on civil society and Zimbabwe conducted massive, politically motivated forced evictions.  
There were bright spots in efforts to uphold human rights by the Western powers in Burma and North Korea. Developing nations also played a positive role: India suspended most military aid to Nepal after the king’s coup, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forced Burma to relinquish its 2006 chairmanship because of its appalling human rights record. Mexico took the lead in convincing the United Nations to maintain a special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism. Kyrgyzstan withstood intense pressure from Uzbekistan to rescue all but four of 443 refugees from the Andijan massacre, and Romania gave them temporary refuge.  
The lack of leadership by Western powers sometimes ceded the field to Russia and China, which built economic, social and political alliances without regard to human rights.  
In his introductory essay to the World Report, Roth writes that it became clear in 2005 that U.S. mistreatment of detainees could not be reduced to a failure of training, discipline or oversight, or reduced to “a few bad apples,” but reflected a deliberate policy choice embraced by the top leadership.  
Evidence of that deliberate policy included the threat by President George W. Bush to veto a bill opposing “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” Roth writes, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s attempt to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the law. In addition, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that the United States can mistreat detainees so long as they are non-Americans held abroad, while CIA Director Porter Goss asserted that “waterboarding,” a torture method dating back to the Spanish Inquisition, was simply a “professional interrogation technique.”  
“Responsibility for the use of torture and mistreatment can no longer credibly be passed off to misadventures by low-ranking soldiers on the nightshift,” said Roth. “The Bush administration must appoint a special prosecutor to examine these abuses, and Congress should set up an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate.”  
The Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 contains survey information on human rights developments in more than 70 countries in 2005. In addition to the introductory essay on torture, the volume contains two essays: “Private Companies and the Public Interest: Why Corporations Should Welcome Global Human Rights Rules” and “Preventing the Further Spread of HIV/AIDS: The Essential Role of Human Rights.”  


Please dedicate a portion of your meditations to assist in creating the conditions for a quick ending to the genocide in Darfur and for a complete restoration of peace with justice and dignity for all parties involved.

The following information is for those who wish to understand in more details the situation briefly outlined above. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.


1. Sudan's president rejects U.N. troops
2. U.S.'s deadly errors in Darfur

See also:

Tutu urges sanctions over Darfur (September 14)
Two million people have been made homeless in DarfurNobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for sanctions to be imposed on Sudan unless it agrees to UN peacekeepers in Darfur. "The world can't keep saying 'Never again'," he told the BBC. Sudan refuses to let the weak, under-staffed African Union mission be expanded and given a tougher mandate.It has denied charges that it backs Arab militias accused of genocide in Darfur and says the problems there are being exaggerated. The harsh truth is that some lives are slightly more important than others Archbishop Desmond TutuThe violence in Darfur has escalated in recent weeks, despite the signing of a peace deal earlier this year. On Monday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the government had renewed aerial bombing and had sent thousands of troops to the region. This has hampered the operation to feed up to 3m people there, most of whom have fled their homes to live in camps. Archbishop Tutu's call comes ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on Darfur and Sunday's "International Day for Darfur", with calls on people around the world to take part in events to put pressure on their governments to do more to end the suffering in Darfur. "We have a horrendous tragedy unfolding in Darfur," the South African archbishop told BBC Five Live radio. CLIP

17 September - Global day for Darfur!
On 17 September 2006, thousands of Amnesty members, along with other activist groups around the world will take part in the Global Day for Darfur, led by a large partnership of organizations. Join us in this global show of support for the Darfuri people, and help us put urgent and much needed pressure on governments and the UN to protect civilians. All are welcome to join us as we call for the immediate deployment of a strong UN peacekeeping force to protect civilians in Darfur. Contact your local Amnesty International office and visit for more information on events planned in major cities around the world. More killings as “peacekeeping gap” threatens in Darfur.
(...) “In the past few weeks, there has been an upsurge in violence in the region, mostly in North Darfur and areas near the Chad border, resulting in civilian deaths and displacement and jeopardizing the ability of humanitarian organizations to provide life-sustaining assistance to hundreds of thousands of war-affected people.”
- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, letter to the President of the UN Security Council, 10 August 2006
Despite the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in May 2006, crimes against civilians are on the increase. In North Darfur, civilians have been targeted as factional fighting erupted between armed rebel groups who are split over the peace deal with the Sudanese government.

Darfur conflict death toll could be 255,000, say researchers (September 15, 2006),,1872978,00.html
The Darfur conflict in Sudan claimed the lives of between 170,000 and 255,000 people in its first 31 months, according to a new estimate by sociologists.




Sudan's president rejects U.N. troops

By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ, Associated Press Writer

September 16

HAVANA - Sudan's president again rejected the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping troops in the war-torn Darfur region during a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday. But one of the country's two vice presidents said he would accept international intervention.

Annan urged the government of Sudan in an editorial distributed Saturday to accept the U.N. Security Council's decision to replace the largely ineffective African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur with better-equipped U.N. troops.

"There can be no military solution to the crisis in Darfur," Annan wrote. "All parties should have understood by now, after so much death and destruction, that only a political agreement in which all stakeholders are fully engaged can bring real peace to the region."

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir rejected his appeal.

"Justice is and remains our objective but through diplomatic, political and other means," he said, according to the English translation of his speech in Arabic. "That's why we reject this position." Al-Bashir made the remarks at a news conference in Cuba, where he and Annan were attending the Nonaligned Movement summit.

At least 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and more than 2 million have fled their homes since 2003 when ethnic African tribes revolted against the Arab-led government. The government is accused of unleashing brutal Arab militiamen known as janjaweed in the remote western province.

First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit welcomed U.N. intervention. He heads the Sudan People's Liberation Movement — a former southern rebel group that made peace with Khartoum in January 2005.

"The aggravation of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur necessitates intervention of international forces to protect civilians from the atrocities of the janjaweed militias so long as the government is not capable of protecting them," Kiir was quoted as saying in remarks published Saturday by the independent Al-Sudani daily.

The Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in May, calls for a cease-fire, disarmament of militias and a protection force for civilians — but does not specify the composition of such a force.

Last month, the Security Council passed a resolution demanding a better-funded, larger and more well-equipped U.N. mission take over Darfur peacekeeping duties from the African Union, whose mandate expires Sept. 30.

But the resolution was unlikely to take effect without the consent of the Sudanese government, something nations including the United States have worked — without success — to acquire. Al-Bashir has said that a switch in command would violate the country's sovereignty and has warned that his army would fight any U.N. forces sent to Darfur.

On Friday, President Bush said it could be time to send international peacekeepers into Darfur over the objections of the government in Khartoum.

"What you'll hear is, 'Well the government of Sudan must invite the United Nations in for us to act,'" Bush said. "Well, there are other alternatives, like passing a U.N. resolution saying we're coming in with a U.N. force in order to save lives."



U.S.'s deadly errors in Darfur

The Bush White House has made 10 grievous mistakes that have only made matters worse.

John Prendergast is senior adviser for the International Crisis Group ( in Washington

September 14, 2006

I just returned from rebel-held areas of Darfur on a trip with Scott Pelley of CBS's 60 Minutes, and I found that the crisis is spiraling out of control: Violence is increasing, malnutrition is soaring, and access to life-saving aid is shrinking. The Bush administration has made some noise about Darfur over the last two years, but it has made a series of deadly mistakes that have served only to make matters worse.

The administration's first deadly mistake is that while it helped broker a peace agreement in May, its negotiator left after only one rebel group signed, leaving at least two other rebel groups wanting more detail in the deal. The Khartoum regime is now partnering with the signatory group to launch a major offensive against the nonsignatories, thus deepening the divisions in Darfur.

Second, the United States and its partners did not make explicit in the peace deal the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping operation to oversee implementation. U.S. officials took verbal promises from Khartoum as sufficient, which the regime has since renounced. Without a U.N. force, Darfurian displaced and refugee populations have no prospect of protection.

The third mistake was not ensuring sufficient international involvement in the dismantling of the deadly Janjaweed militia structures. The task was left to the very entity that arms the Janjaweed, the Khartoum regime. Without real international participation in the dismantling, no displaced Darfurian will ever go home.

Fourth, the United States has politically supported the rebel group that signed the peace deal, including having President Bush meet the group's leader. This faction has since effectively become a government militia that has been responsible for gross human-rights violations.

Fifth, after the senior U.S. official who helped negotiate the partial peace took a job on Wall Street, almost his entire team departed. For these last four critical months, State Department officials have opposed the naming of a presidential envoy to clean up the mess and make Darfur a genuine priority.

Sixth, the United States and Europeans have left the African Union force in Darfur in a state of limbo, not giving it the requisite resources and political support needed to protect the people of Darfur.

Seventh, the United States crafted a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized targeted sanctions in early 2005, but has since imposed sanctions on only one regime official, a retired air force commander. This leaves Khartoum with the correct impression that there will be no accountability.

Eighth, the United States has not provided information and intelligence to the International Criminal Court as the latter conducts its investigation of the war crimes committed in Darfur. Sharing such material could be a critical part of leverage on Khartoum as it would face the prospect of accelerated indictments of senior officials.

Ninth, the United States invited the security chief of the regime to CIA headquarters in Virginia, thus cementing the relationship with a man believed to be the architect of the ethnic-cleansing campaign in Darfur. This tells Khartoum that as long as they are "with us" in the war on terror, they can continue to pursue what the U.S. president himself has labeled genocide in Darfur.

Tenth, and most recently, the United States continues to offer incentives rather than pressures in its bid to change Khartoum's behavior and induce it to support a U.N. force. An administration official went to Khartoum recently and offered President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir a meeting with Bush and discussed the possibility of removing some of the U.S.-imposed sanctions. If we have learned anything over the last 15 years, it is this: Being soft on perpetrators of crimes against humanity does little to alter their behavior.

The administration's press statements and offers of incentives, and U.N. Security Council resolutions without real punitive actions have left the impression in Khartoum that Washington and the rest of the international community are all bark and no bite. "Constructive engagement" sometimes works, but it is making no impact here. Until the international stance, led by the United States, becomes much tougher, Khartoum can be expected to go on relentlessly targeting the civilian population in Darfur.

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