Other countries use U.S. as model for prisoner abuse

In Civil Liberties, Global War On Terror, Habeas Corpus, Laws & Regulation, Terrorism, US Politics on October 25, 2006 at 11:31 am

One of the key criticisms I heard about the Military Commissions Act and the U.S. treatment of prisoners in the weeks leading up to the signing of the act was that by allowing such actions, we are setting an example for the rest of the world. Given that we treat prisoners in such a way, what happens when a U.S. soldier, a U.S. citizen, or anyone else is labelled as an “enemy combatant,” captured by a foreign government, and tortured? How can we possibly criticize them for it, given that we do the same thing?

When I first heard that criticism, it was offered as a hypothetical situation. But yesterday, a report was published by Reuters that explained how other countries have in fact been citing the U.S. as an excuse/inspiration/model for their treatment of prisoners.

Some countries try to refute criticism over their treatment of prisoners by saying they are only following the U.S. example on handling terror suspects, a U.N. human rights expert said on Monday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. investigator on torture, told a news conference that “all too frequently” governments respond to criticism about their jails by saying they handled detainees the same way the United States did.

“The United States has been the pioneer of human rights and is a country that has a high reputation in the world,” Nowak said. “Today, other governments are kind of saying, ‘But why are you criticizing us, we are not doing something different than what the United States is doing.'”

He said nations like Jordan tell him, “We are collaborating with the United States so it can’t be wrong if it is also done by the United States.”

Nowak, along with other U.N. human rights officials, has criticized U.S. policies against terror suspects, including secret jails, harsh treatment and the lack of due process. He turned down a visit to Guantanamo Bay because he could not interview detainees and prison officials in private.

He has argued that if there is evidence against detainees, after years in jail, it should be presented to the usually “efficient” and fair civilian courts rather than military tribunals.

Nowak, an Austrian law professor, said the new U.S. law adopted earlier this month, which outlaws rape and most forms of torture, still allows harsh interrogation methods rights advocates say border on torture. And it does not permit appeals in U.S. federal court…

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