Worldwide, a global survey conducted by Amnesty International reveals that tens of thousands of citizens from twenty-one different countries believe if they were “taken into custody” by their government they would probably be tortured.
From December 2013 to April 2014, Amnesty International interviewed 21,221 citizens from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Citizens were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the following statements: (1) If I were taken into custody by the authorities in my country, I am confident that I would be safe; (2) Clear rules against torture are crucial because any use of torture is immoral and will weaken international human rights; (3) Torture is sometimes necessary and acceptable to gain information that may protect the public.
On average, “more than four in ten people” indicated they would not “feel safe from torture if taken into custody.” The highest rates of fear were found in Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Pakistan and Kenya. Thirty-two percent of Americans surveyed feared they would be tortured.
Overwhelmingly, those interviewed favored “international rules against torture.” The rate of those who favored rules was highest in South Korea, Greece, Canada, China and Australia. Eighty-two percent of Americans interviewed favored rules.
But around a third of global citizens surveyed indicated “torture can be justified in some cases to protect the public.” This view was highest in China, India, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Forty-five percent of Americans surveyed agreed that torture could be justified. Fifty-three percent disagreed.
The survey was conducted to call attention to how torture is flourishing around the world. In recent years, Amnesty International has received reports of torture from 141 different countries.
While a “comprehensive and categorical statistical assessment of the global scale of torture is impossible” because “torture takes place in the shadows,” horrific stories of dehumanization and suffering continue to surface.
Here are all the torture methods Amnesty International has become aware of in recent years: beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, prolonged isolation, having needles pushed under their fingernails, cigarette burns, stabbing, forced drinking of dirty water, urine or chemicals, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, forced abortion or sterilization, rape or threat of rape, humiliation, threats of violence to a prisoner or their family, forced administration of drugs, inhumane detention conditions, deprivation of food or water, judicial corporal punishment, forcible shaving of Muslim men’s beards, prisoners made to endure long periods of extreme hot or cold, boiling water poured onto prisoners, prisoners having their joints drilled, denial of medical care and melting plastic poured on prisoners back.
A significant percentage of those methods were or have been employed by CIA agents or US military interrogators in the US “war on terrorism.”
Amnesty International declares, “Although governments have prohibited the dehumanizing practice in law and have recognized global disgust at its existence, many of them are carrying out torture or facilitating it in practice.
“The political failure by governments is compounded and fueled by a corrosive state of denial. Those who order or commit torture usually escape justice. Torture is mostly carried out with impunity, with no investigation and no one prosecuted.”
“Rather than respecting the rule of law through zero tolerance of torture,” according to Amnesty International, “governments persistently and routinely lie about it to their own people and to the world. Rather than ensuring effective safeguards to protect their citizens from the torturer, instead they allow torture to thrive.”
Amnesty International calls attention to “maximum security isolation or segregation facilities” in the US where thousands of inmates are kept in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day or longer. “Many have little access to natural light or out-of-cell recreation time which amounts to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The human rights organization also takes issue with the US government’s failure to hold any person accountable for the “use of interrogation techniques such as ‘waterboarding,’ prolonged sleep deprivation and stress positions” in CIA secret prisons. It protests the fact that a Senate intelligence committee report on CIA torture remains classified.
A fair amount of anger is directed at European Union countries for being complicit in abuses or torture that occurred during US-led counterterrorism operations since 2001. EU countries helped facilitate rendition flights and hosted black site prisons. They conspired with government officials to ensure that victims seeking justice would be denied “full disclosure of the truth.”
“Governments across the EU are still failing to initiate effective investigations into their participation in the CIA program of rendition and secret detention, where torture and other ill-treatment was rife between 2001 and 2007,” Amnesty International reported.
However, the organization does cheer a “rare victory for justice” where US and Italian agents were convicted in Italy for their role in the kidnapping of Abu Omar in 2003. They also acknowledge the European Court of Human Rights held Macedonia responsible for “ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and torture” of Khaled el-Masri, which gave him a modicum of justice few victims have achieved.
In countries where it is well-known that the US has active counterterrorism operations or has had active counterterrorism operations, torture can often go on quite brazenly without any word of protest from US government officials, who are more concerned with military-to-military relationships than humanity.
As the organization recounts, the Yemeni government “enacted an immunity law in January 2012 that granted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and all those who were employed by his government immunity from criminal prosecution for ‘politically motivated acts carried out in the course of their duties.”
Police in Pakistan have engaged in forced confessions. In the North-Western tribal areas, where drones are known to populate the skies and conduct attacks, “thousands of men and boys” have been “arbitrarily arrested by the Armed Forces and held in secret detention centers, where reports of torture are widespread.”
Niaz (not his real name) who was held in one such detention center, described his experience in 2013: “For the first five days they beat us constantly with leather belts across our backs, the pain was too much to describe. [The soldiers] would threaten to kill me if I didn’t confess to being part of the Taliban.” Niaz’s brother died in custody.
Torture is widespread in Iraqi prisons and detention centers. In Libya, torture is “rife in both state and militia-run facilities. Amnesty International has documented 23 cases of deaths under torture since the end of the 2011 conflict.”
Gulf countries with close counterterrorism relationships with the United States, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, have tortured and abused activists.
One of the most horrible effects of the global war on terrorism has been how it has promoted the normalization of torture or encouraged complicity. The reason why some of these citizens believe torture is justified is because the US has exported this mentality to regions where it is committed to waging war.