Archive for July 22nd, 2012

International Justice Day Reminds of Unresolved Torture by US Officials

Sunday, July 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm by

July 17 was the Day of International Criminal Justice. Established to recognize the emerging system of international justice and to commemorate the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, this day is used by countries around the world to raise support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to raise awareness about current global injustices. However, for victims of the Bush Administration’s secret prisons and “alternative interrogation” techniques, this day stands as a cold reminder that the international justice ideal is far from a reality.

Obama has largely ended abusive interrogation practices, but he has “failed to meet US obligations under the Convention against Torture to investigate acts of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees.” According to Human Rights Watch, the overwhelming evidence of torture under the Bush administration requires Obama to order an investigation into the mistreatment of detainees; he shows no signs of doing so. Such action, or lack of action as the case may be, could have lasting ramifications for the United States. A report from Human Rights Watch explains:

“There are solid grounds to investigate Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and [CIA Director, George] Tenet for authorizing torture and war crimes,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “President Obama has treated torture as an unfortunate policy choice rather than a crime. His decision to end abusive interrogation practices will remain easily reversible unless the legal prohibition against torture is clearly reestablished.”

Not only is the possibility of future torture left open, but the reputation of the United States is left permanently scarred in the eyes of the international community. What should nations of the world think of a country that signs onto multiple treaties opposing torture, supports the prosecution of foreign individuals and organizations shown to have engaged in torture, but shields torturers within its own borders?

According to Paul Seils, Vice President of the International Center for Transitional Justice, there are three purposes to international justice. To “reaffirm a society’s shared values about basic ideas of right and wrong; restore confidence in the institutions of the state charged with protecting fundamental rights and freedoms; and recognize the human dignity of the victims of atrocities that have taken place.” The US cannot afford to lose ground on any one of these fronts.

If the US is to remain a respected international actor as well as a functioning state based on a set of common values, those who authorized the use of torture must be brought to justice. To encourage the Obama administration to take long-needed legal action against torturers, join us in speaking out. Maybe if we work together, International Justice Day next year will be an occasion to celebrate rather than mourn.

Spying in Our Own Nation?

Sunday, July 22, 2012 at 8:43 am by

It was brought to attention that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may have been reading the private emails of potential whistle blowers. Employees found that some medical devices were deemed unsafe and proceeded to contact the United States Congress about it. Of course, when these allegations were brought up against the FDA, it stated that,

“It (FDA) monitored emails only to ensure its staff were not sharing ‘trade secret’ information about specific device companies, which is forbidden by law, and that it never stopped the whistle blowers from contacting lawmakers, journalists, or government auditors…The only individuals whose email was being monitored were (five) FDA employees. We did not impede or interfere in any way with any employees’ communication to members of Congress.”

Our country seems to be heading towards a direction where people can no longer freely express their thoughts without the fear of the government being out to get them. Are we really living in a free democracy where people are encouraged to convey their opinions? One can not be sure, especially because one of the biggest organizations in our country is being accused of breaching privacy laws. The FDA is a government agency that is trusted to ensure that what we take into our bodies is deemed safe. If we can not trust them to openly admit when they make a mistake, then how can we trust them with our food and drug stock?

(Video) Spying on Scientists: How the FDA Monitored Whistleblowers

This issue of privacy and security in our country does not seem to be improving. A couple of months ago, the Obama administration grew in power when it comes to surveying Americans. In the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, it clearly reads, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” This would normally be a right promised to us as citizens of this country, but it does not seem to be. William Binney, a senior member of the National Security Agency, puts it interestingly when he states, “They violated the Constitution setting it up. But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way.” Does not exactly sound like a privacy-friendly place to reside in.

If we are to once again be the envy of the world, our government needs to get its rules and laws perfect so as to ensure that we as citizens maintain our right to privacy. Because if we lose this essential right, then who knows what we would be bound to lose next.