Why Isn’t the Justice Department Enforcing the Convention Against Torture?
Marcy Wheeler made a great point on Friday that’s worth following up on. President Obama’s declaration to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention Against Torture tosses the responsibility for developing “effective policies and programs for stopping torture” to the State Department, asking it to **“**solicit information from all of our diplomatic missions around the world …”
But the President’s speech seemed primarily aimed at stopping torture abroad, which is presumably why he’s called on the State Department to get involved. But what about torture committed by our own government?
I know some are still debating which techniques constitute “torture” — such as in this scolding piece from The Washington Times — but because the Convention Against Torture, which the president was commemorating, prohibits torture AND cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as I’ve noted before, at this point we can put that debate aside. There’s little question that the sort of techniques engaged in by U.S. government officials — whether partial drowning, “walling,” weeks of sleep and food deprivation or locking detainees inside a tiny box with what were believed to be deadly insects is, at the very least, cruel and degrading.
It’s odd, therefore, as Marcy points out, to see the president — who vowed on his third day in office to end torture — refusing to prosecute those who engaged in acts that clearly violate the anti-torture convention he commemorated on Friday.
As Marcy put it: “Mr. President, the agency that must take the lead in stopping torture is the Department of Justice. The effective policies for stopping torture you’re looking for? They start with prosecuting torture.”