Monday, September 18, 2006

What is an outrage against human dignity?

Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. Stunningly unbelievable.

I'm almost at a loss for words for describing how appalled I am when I hear that the President of the United States and all of his expert advisers and lawyers are unable to grasp the inherent meaning of a very short phrase:

Common Article III says that there will be no outrages upon human dignity. It's very vague. What does that mean, "outrages upon human dignity"? That's a statement that is wide open to interpretation. And what I'm proposing is that there be clarity in the law so that our professionals will have no doubt that that which they are doing is legal.

I'm sorry, but even the most common and ill-educated person on the street has an intuitive sense of what "human dignity" is and how it can be disregarded.

Actually, here is the text from Convention (III) Article 3:

    In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

    (1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ' hors de combat ' by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
    To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

    (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

    (b) taking of hostages;

    (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;

    (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

    (2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

    An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
    The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
    The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

So, actually, the proper phrase is "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."

It is so very telling that the Republican conservatives are so mindlessly clueless about such a basic concept that is core to what the rest of us call "civilization."

Maybe the administration is merely noting that the clause has a lack of specificity. Yes, that is true, but completely besides the point. It would be silly to insist on enumerating all possible forms of treatment which might be degrading or humiliating. What would be the point, other than to assert that if the CIA invents a brand new way to degrade or humiliate a person, then this "new" treatment wouldn't be precluded? Its point is to be a general catch-all for any form of inappropriate treatment that isn't explicitly covered by the prior clauses. Although it lacks specificity, there is nothing vague about it.

If President Bush needs guidance, he doesn't need legislation, but simply a person with "common sense": treatment is degrading or humiliating if a person with "common sense" would consider the treatment to be degrading or humiliating. I sincerely doubt that even one of the CIA "professionals" has any difficulty recognizing what treatment is degrading and humiliating, and what is not. To claim otherwise is essentially to tell a lie.

In short, the phrase means that a person's civil rights should be respected. Alas, that is also a concept about which the Republican conservatives are equally clueless.

They understand only one basic concept: power and how to gain it, keep it, and use it to protect their own interests at the expense of those they don't consider to be their "own people."

There is another name for it: The ends justify the means.

The bottom line is that the administration seeks to treat prisoners in an inhumane manner and knows full well that such treatment is not permissible under the Geneva Conventions. They do seek to use torture, and are willing to torture the English language, national and international law, and the U.S. Constitution to legalize it in spirit if not by name.

Is torture "an outrage against human dignity"? Yes. End of story.

-- Jack Krupansky


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home