Jul 10, 2006
In May, the United Nations Committee against Torture issued an 11-page report, documenting U.S. policies and methods of torture used against detainees around the world.
The report harshly condemned the torture and degrading treatment of detainees at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and numerous other prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. It called for the investigation of senior military and civilian officials for their complicity in authorizing inhumane techniques, for the closing of Guantanamo, and for an end to secret prison sites in other countries.
When the report first came out, the U.S. media covered this part of the report. But this was only half the report. There was no mention of the other half, pointing to brutal treatment, often amounting to torture, of prison inmates right here in the United States. Other than a brief mention on BBC ... not a word on radio, TV or in newspapers. Not a squeak from politicians who have access to the full report.
The report had an extensive list:
1. It pointed to the Chicago Police Department for acts of torture and degrading treatment of prisoners by law enforcement personnel and called for prompt investigation.
2. It criticized authorities for allowing rape and sexual assaults against inmates, commonplace in detention facilities across the country.
3. It pointed out that on all levels of detention – from immigration detention to pre-trial confinement to serving sentences in penitentiaries – “minorities, immigrants and persons of differing sexual orientation are particularly vulnerable” and meted out for violent and degrading treatment.
4. It criticized the practice in Supermax prisons of inmates being thrown into isolation cells for very long periods.
5. It described sexually humiliating treatment of women prisoners and denounced the shackling of women during childbirth.
6. It criticized the practice of putting children under 18 in with adult inmates during pre-trial and after-sentencing detention. And it showed that the U.S. is one of only a few countries which sentences large numbers of children to life imprisonment.
7. While the report did not take a stand against the death penalty, it condemned methods of execution, especially “lethal injections, as causing severe pain and suffering.”
No one believes the U.N. will do anything about U.S. government treatment of its own population. But the report at least demonstrates what many people in this country know: there is no “American dream,” only a nightmare for the poor.