I made some claims about the treaty obligations of the U.S. in some comments to some FDL posts tonight on the basis of memory. I went back to find the references (mostly in Glenn Greenwald’s blog) to verify my memory, and thought it would be useful to highlight them in one place. The links and some extracts from the Greenwald posts are at the end of this post.

I think there are three important points everyone should make in discussing the topic of accountability for torture committed by the U.S.

1) The U.S. is obliged to investigate credible allegations of torture committed under its auspices, under a treaty (Convention Against Torture) signed by none other than Ronald Reagan. I am no lawyer, but I believe that the initial investigation does not have to be a criminal investigation, but it must thoroughly investigate all credible allegations, and no one, whether high or low, can be given complete immunity from prosecution.

2) The U.S. government, and the officially respectable national affairs press and media, take these treaty obligations very seriously when torture is suspected in other countries.

3) A nearly two-thirds majority of the U.S. population favors some kind of investigation. A plurality of 38% favor criminal investigations –which seems to me to be a stronger measure than the minimum initial actions required under the Convention Against Torture.

So, what possible excuse can there be for any further delay in a nonpartisan, and thorough, investigation, and that will now or in the near future, be available for public inspection? How will the country be “torn apart” if 2/3 of the country want investigations?

Our timid, feckless and cowardly leaders need to start taking effective action soon. Silly measures like fighting the release of further evidence will only backfire, and harm U.S. efforts in the long run. Already there are accounts of horrific tortures supposedly committed by the U.S. , comparable to that committed by very bad actors, particularly the Japanese during WWII: burnings, electric shocks, purposefully infecting captives with disease, etc.

Some of these stories seem doubtful. For example, captives were supposedly threatened with injection with disease (“dog cysts” whatever that is supposed to mean). Were they going to inject prisoners with Giardia? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giardia_lamblia) That sounds unlikely. Also IMHO are stories that people were given gasoline enemas. More likely, these were techniques of psychological torture. If I were doing it, I would just throw an oily rag in the room to get some gasoline smell going and torture them with hot water, and tell them it was gasoline. But, in fact, we do not know whether they are true or not. But it is indisputable fact, that the U.S. stands accused of such torture, whether we like it or not, or believe it or not.

There are also pictures that are advertised as being “new” even if they may not be new at all. Some of these are rather worse than what we have seen so far in that there is fresh, bloody evidence of beatings.

Many people susceptible to recruitment into terrorism, or who have the choice of passively tolerating terrorists or actively working with us, will NOT believe Obama’s assertion that there is nothing so bad in the new photos. They very well may believe the worst rumors, whether true or not.

It is time to start real investigations. Otherwise our government will be perceived as contemptible hypocrites who defy the will of their own people, and the new administration and Congress, will become objectively criminal through deriliction of their duties under international law, rather than merely corrupt, cowardly, feckless, incompetent self-destructive, and very much unworthy of the people they serve, who once again, show more character, wisdom, insight, courage and common sense that their government.

Patriot Daily News Clearing House, at Daily Kos
May 17, 2009
Torture News Roundup: Cheney’s Screwed.

Juan Cole
Informed Consent
Australian Press Releases Abu Ghraib Photos

Glenn Greewald’s blog on Salon
Saturday April 25, 2009
Transcript: Interview with U.N. torture official Manfred Novak

Excerpts from Novak:

… if under the direct jurisdiction of the United States of America, a government official – whether its a high official or a low official or a police officer or military officer, doesn’t matter – whoever practices torture shall be brought before an independent criminal court and be held accountable. That is, the torturer, him or herself, but also those who are ordering torture practices, or in any other way participating in the practice of torture. This is a general obligation, and it applies to everybody; there are no exceptions in the Convention.

… not every investigation into an allegation of torture must be a criminal investigation. If you look at Article 13 of the Convention, it’s much broader. What is important is that every single credible allegation of torture, be it now by a victim, be it by other sources, must be investigated by a competent authority, and I would think that there is a enough evidence about torture practices under the time of the Bush administration that would warrant an independent, comprehensive investigation, not only about the legal memos, and the legal authorization, but about the actual practice. Who was tortured by whom, with what methods, etc. That should be first investigated. It does not have to be a criminal investigation….

I think if there is any kind of amnesty law, or executive order to say that nobody would be prosecuted for the crime of torture, that’s a clear violation of the obligation under the Convention Against Torture, even if it’s only those who actually tortured upon the command of higher authority; there, Article 2-3 of the Convention is very clear that the fact that somebody tortures on the basis of an order does not relieve him or her of the obligation not to torture…

Glenn Greewald’s blog on Salon
Sunday May 17, 2009
Distorting public opinion on torture investigations

Results from USA Today/Gallup Poll on desire for investigation into U.S. torture, survey of 1,027 adults, landline and cellphone:

38% of respondents favor Criminal Investigation
24% of respondents favor Independent Panel
24% of respondents favor Neither

Glenn Greenwald
Tuesday March 10, 2009
New U.N. human rights report and America’s lectures to other countries