Voltaire Network

Torture: the visible part of the iceberg

The Australian newspaper The Age reports on the event that shocked the nation after the article published by Law professors Mirko Bagaric and Julie Clarke in which they legally justified the use of torture in the war against terror. Their critics, however, haven’t said these arguments were not theirs but part of an international campaign against conventions that defend human rights.


The site of the US State Department proudly announces on its front page: Newsweek backed down! The publication denied today that jailers at Guantánamo threw copies of the Koran to the toilets to psychologically damage the detainees. The weekly affirmed that, after all, its source was not reliable and it had to yield itself to the demands of the political State. Citizens were asked to understand that the case was closed. In Gulf News, analyst Linda S. Heard expressed her irritation for the denial issued by Newsweek. Actually, the article was not exclusive at all. Some NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, or journalists of the Associated Press or the Daily Mirror had already revealed such practices (and others) in Guantánamo. The only difference is that Newsweek has been the first of the big American newspapers to echo this. What is shocking is not the article as such for it reveals nothing but the publication’s yieldingness to pressures. By yielding to the White House desiderata the press allows the crimes committed by the Empire’s military and mercenaries to remain unpunished. Nevertheless, for neoconservative editorialist Claudia Rosett, the yielding of the press is not enough. In the Wall Street Journal, she reminded her colleagues the American media is the focus of the general attention and consequently, continuing with the State propaganda, stopping the reports of the crimes in Guantánamo and focusing on accusing Washington’s future adversaries was convenient.

The debate about the prisoners’ treatment on the war against terror has been shocking in Australia. The Age reports each professor’s arguments.
The Law professor Mirko Begaric summarized the article he wrote along with his colleague Julie Clarke in the University of San Francisco Law Review justifying torture. For him, when a terrorist is arrested for preparing an attack, the use of torture can prevent it and lives can be saved. Therefore, in the war against terror, torture could be conceived as legitimate defense. When hostages are taken, the police is authorized to kill the kidnappers that threaten the lives of their prisoners, for an innocent’s live is more important. So, the police should be authorized to intentionally hurt criminals to save lives.
The day after the publication of this article, Sarah Joseph and Marius Smith, from Monash University Castan Centre for Human Rights Law refuted the said arguments. In an investigation, you never know for sure if a person is linked to an attack and torture prevents from getting reliable information. Besides, such legalization would have an impact on the whole society: how could it be thought that forming a torture professional is a neutral act? Two days after the publication, Australian former prime minister, Malcolm Fraser condemned too Bagaric and Clarke’s thesis. Legalizing torture would represent a backward step for the detainee’s rights which have been fought for centuries and wouldn’t provide new information because, according to the experts, information gotten as the result of torture is rarely reliable.
However, both critiques overlooked an essential element mentioned by Bagaric: he was not the author of what he wrote, all he did was reintroducing Alan M. Dershowitz’ thesis, Sharon’s government legal adviser and the theorist of the legal torture. It is not an Australian debate only; it is an international campaign against the Human Rights and the conventions which guarantee them. By just focusing on the national impacts of the debate, human rights defenders overlook an important part of the problem.

For Israel and the United States, the Iranian nuclear issue is an opportunity to justify the change of their nuclear strategy by invoking legitimate defense.
The chair of Project Daniel, Louis Rene Beres, asks Israel in the Washington Times to be ready to respond to Iran. For a long time, Israel has kept a nuclear ambiguity that is no longer useful. Tel Aviv must clearly show its power and “get its missiles out of its bases”. On his part, American military analyst, William Arkin, is worried about Washington’s new strategies which eliminate the differences between conventional and nuclear attacks. In the Washington Post, Arkin urges the citizens to take up again the defense policy and promote a debate on the role of nuclear technology.

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