The US government: torturers with impunity

2014-12-10 10:08

Governments never do anything without its cabinet or congress thinking about it carefully first. There is no acting upon impulse, and everything is done very strategically. This leaves me wondering why the United States would release a report tarnishing the reputation of one of its own institutions – and a major one at that.

One Tuesday December 10, the US government released a report detailing all the human rights abuses committed against “terror suspects” by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Now that the truth is out, what happens next? Is this going to cause another Twitter frenzy for the next few days and then be forgotten about? This is usually what happens. When South Africa's public protector, Thuli Madonsela, found in a report that President Jacob Zuma spent public money on upgrading his private home, everyone was outraged. The same happened when Zuma's “very ill” friends, Schabir Shaik and Jackie Selebi, were saved from their prison sentences by being released on medical parole. These incidents angered the public and the media were having a field day. But nothing came of it.

It's not impossible to hold government officials to account, though not very likely. Some instances may call for a collective stand. Majority of the people in a country need to be prepared to take part in protest action, coupled with brilliant lawyers willing to take up the fight on behalf of the people.

Human rights organisations are often headed by attorneys. The release of the “torture report” has raised the ire of these organisations, upon which I am hoping they would act. Not only do they now have to keep a watchful eye over how the US deals with its terror suspects but they need to all stand together and fight hard to get the US to shut down its detention camps where mostly innocent people are accused of terrorism. It wouldn't be surprising if they are all actually innocent.

Human rights organisations putting pressure on the US would be holding President Barack Obama to a promise he made when he was still running for the presidency in 2007. He promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay, a statement that probably got him many votes.

After his inauguration in January 2009 he promised it would close within one year. It's still standing today and innocent people are still being tortured. Presidential candidates and political parties will say and do anything to get votes, and hardly ever do they stick the promises they make.

Sporadically there will be media reports about detainees being held without charge and being tortured for several years. Now and then a human rights watchdog would issue a statement about it. But these random actions will not yield any positive results. The organisations need the backing of the masses, and perhaps it's by time they work on this strategically.

For how much longer will the US detain and torture people just because they have a Muslim name? Why should the US get away with wrongfully detaining Mamdouh Habib? He was arrested in Parkistan in 2001, taken to Egypt and tortured, and was then transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He was released without charge in 2005.

Abdel Malik Wahab al Rahabi was accused of being the bodyguard of Osama bin Laden and has a long list of alleged terror activities against his name. He was seen as a high risk and major threat to the US, and was among the first men to be held at Guantanamo Bay in 2002. He is now eligible for release after his case came before the Periodic Review Board, which is conducting parole-style hearings for detainees. It goes without saying that he, too, is being tortured while being held at Guantanamo Bay. If he is eligible for release he can't possibly be guilty of all the terror activities the US government accused him of.

As individuals or small groups, we are powerless against governments. They can do what they want with us and there is nothing that can be done about it. However, it is us that politicians and political parties need. Without our votes they wouldn't be up there calling the shots. They tell us what we want to hear, it sounds good and we fall for it blindly. We vote for them and once they come into power they wreak havoc. What can we do about it single-handedly? Nothing.

It is time people realise that they have the power. They need to use it wisely to hold politicians to account for a better society.

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