Before the Senate Intelligence Committee released its declassified report Tuesday detailing treatment of prisoners in CIA custody, the Obama administration raised concerns that it could incite violence in the Middle East and expressed fears for the safety of Americans in foreign custody. For our democracy, this is a regrettable teachable moment regarding the consequences of failing to abide by the UN Convention Against Torture.
As a physician working with torture survivors from Third World countries, I have been told time and again by those who have been tortured that they said anything just to make it stop.
We are unable to turn back the clock and change what has taken place, but we must learn that the safety of all can be greatly influenced by the treatment of the few. There is more that we can do, as noted by the Committee Against Torture: allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture private access to detainees; allow for investigation of allegations of torture, and hold those convicted accountable; make the act of torture a federal crime; provide opportunities for treatment and reparation; put in checks and balances so as not to allow alternative definitions of torture to be used during armed conflict; and examine the conditions of those in custody, detention, or prison.
There can be no exceptions as it relates to torture or ill treatment, as to do so places us all in peril.
The articles of the Convention Against Torture are the yardstick by which we should be judged.