The Right of Every Human Not to be Tortured: By ANN FAGAN GINGER

Challenging Rights Violations
Friday September 17, 2004

The people who fought against the king of England and his armies in order to establish the United States of America quickly declared, in writing, that they had rights that must be respected by their new government. They were building on the Magna Charta of 1215 in England and the Petition of Right of the English Parliament in 1628.  

The Bill of Rights begins with the First Amendment to the new Constitution and proclaims the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment also proclaims freedom of religion, freedom of speech and of the press. 

The people who fought against the Southern states in order to abolish slavery quickly voted, through their state legislatures, to adopt the Fourteenth Amendment, declaring the fundamental right to equal protection of the law to every person within the jurisdiction of the United States, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude, which has come to include the right to equal protection of women. 

The people who fought in World War II in order to defeat the fascist ideology and practices in Germany, Italy and Japan quickly joined peoples from other nations in writing into the United Nations Charter articles 2.3 and 2.4, which commit the United States and all signatory nations to “refrain ... from the threat or use of force” in the settlement of disputes. And they joined in writing articles 55 and 56 into the charter to commit the United States, and all other signatory nations, “to promote ... universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.” And the U.S. government in 1945 helped write the Nuremberg Principles to define war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity to govern all future actions of all nations.  

By 1994, the U.S. government had joined most other nations in ratifying three treaties that further define these rights: the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  

After 9/11, people in the service of the United States government and under contract with the government frequently took actions that U.S. residents considered to be denials or abridgments of their basic rights or the rights of their neighbors or of people they saw reported in the media. 


The Right Not to be Tortured 

Every human being has a right not to be tortured. The first U.S. citizens insisted on including this right in their new Constitution. The Eighth Amendment states: in the territories governed by the United States there shall be no “cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The U.S. citizens who helped write the United Nations Charter in 1945 insisted on including human rights protections in articles 55c and 56. 

In 1994, the U.S. Senate ratified the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and adopted the U.S. regulation implementing that convention. The U.S. has also agreed to the third and fourth Geneva Conventions on Treatment of Prisoners of War and Civilian Persons, the Alien Tort Claims Act, and Torture Victims Protection Act.  

The following are expamples of this right violation: 


• Detention Center Guards Beat Ivory Coast Pilot: Tony Oulai 

(Mary McGrory, “Bungling on the 9-11 Prisoners,” Washington Post, Feb. 10, 2002) 


• INS Dentist Tortured Palestinian Canadian: Jaoudat Abouazza 

(Jaoudat Abouazza Free in Canada, but Struggle for Justice Continues,” Progressive Austin, July 15, 2002) 


• INS and FBI Agents Tortured Legal Immigrant from Egypt: Hady Hassan Omar  

(Matthew Brzezinski, “Hady Hassan Omar’s Detention,” New York Times Magazine, Oct. 27, 2002) 


• Guards Tortured Saudi-Arabian Student: Yazeed Al-Salmi  

(“San Diego Material Witness En Route Home,” The San Diego Channel.com Oct. 10, 2001; “Terror Probe Raises Concerns About Civil Rights,” CNN, Oct. 22, 2001) 


• Palestinian Immigrant Died in FBI Custody: Muhammed Rafiq Butt 

(Somini Sengupta, “Ill-Fated Path to America, Jail and Death,” New York Times, Nov. 5, 2001; Aamir Latif, “Pakistani Relative Says FBI Tortured Dead Detainee,” Islam Online, Nov. 1, 2001) 


• Deportees Sue Attorney General and FBI: Ibrahim Turkmen 

(CCR Legal Team, “Turkmen v. Ashcroft, Synopsis,” Center for Constitutional Rights, July 16, 2003) 


To be continued… 


Berkeley resident Ann Fagan Ginger is a lawyer, teacher, activist and the author of 24 books. She won a civil liberties case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1959. She is the founder and executive director of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, a Berkeley-based center for human rights and peace law. 


This column is based on the Report by Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, Challenging U.S. Human Rights Violations Since 9/11, Ann Fagan Ginger, Editor (Prometheus Books 2005). Readers can go to http://mcli.org for a complete listing of reports and sources, with web links.