U.S. Government Abuse Rears Its Head in Taylor Case

Here’s the latest from the first ever prosecution under the Anti Torture Act. Enacted in 1994, the law prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in torture anywhere in the world. From NPR this morning:

Jury selection begins this week in Miami in the torture trial of Liberian President Charles Taylor’s son . . . Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr., also known as Charles McArthur Emmanuel, was born in Boston in 1977. When his father took power in Liberia in 1997, Taylor followed and became the head of the paramilitary Anti-Terrorist Unit, or “Demon Forces,” which became notorious for abuses against civilians.

But here’s an interesting nugget:

In pre-trial motions, [Charles Taylor Jr.’s lawyer] also sought access to a classified list of interrogation techniques approved and used by the CIA, saying he believes that some of the acts his client is charged with are similar to interrogation techniques approved by the United States. U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga denied the request.
And this, from the Guardian:

Prosecutors and defence lawyers are already sparring over how to define torture for the jury.

Prosecutors argue an act could be considered torture if it
causes pain that is “extreme in intensity and difficult to endure”.

Meanwhile, Emmanuel’s attorneys say the law requires a higher level of pain – that ordinarily is associated with death, organ failure or serious impairment of body functions.
Torture is only pain equivalent to organ failure . . . sound familiar? Yep, that would by the U.S. government’s own Bybee Memo which concluded that, to be torture, the resulting physical pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” While this Department of Justice Memo has been withdrawn, the consequences of the United States having authorized torture and abuse are clearly far from over.

Presumably defenders of the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program and the authors of the flawed legal arguments that excused torture never intended to aid the defense of a brutal criminal like Charles Taylor, Jr. But there we have it, the latest unintended consequence of allowing for torture and abuse.


Published on September 23, 2008


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