Torture and Execution Do Not Belong in the 21st Century!

Maryam Namazie
Published in WPI Briefing
May 5, 2004

The revelation of pictures of Iraqi prisoners being tortured by US and British forces was the main headline of the past week. While most everyone was reeling from the grotesque images, there were attempts made to question the validity of some pictures, excuse the acts, call it abuse rather than torture, and portray it as lack of training and supervision or as isolated incidences and so on.

None of these, however, are the real issues at hand. Whether every single picture is authentic does not matter. Already there are other soldiers facing investigations for torturing prisoners. A recent military report made public by the New Yorker this week states that there are ‘sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses’ in the military prison system. Obviously what we are hearing about and seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.

Try as they might, torture cannot be excused or justified. Even if it were sparked off for example as revenge for a soldier killed by a bomb. The abuse excuse never holds, especially if it is being used by the abuser! Also, the fact that worse tortures have taken place in Saddam’s prisons does not matter to those being tortured and are irrelevant. With this line of thought, any violation of human rights and dignity could be excused since there is always a situation that can be found that is worse.

And what about if there had been proper training and supervision as some say? Well firstly, this contradicts the fact that it was done by rogue elements. If there is a problem with training and supervision, then it affects all soldiers; if it is a few rogue elements, then just those few must have slept through the ‘don’t torture seminar’. Clearly, this is a trivialisation of the matter at hand. In fact, it is training and supervision that is the cause of the torture. Soldiers committed these acts with the approval of their superiors as is coming to light. Also soldiers are trained to do the most heinous act of all – kill innocent civilians, men, women and children. Is anyone surprised that they torture as well?

In other news, it was reported that Shahroudi, the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s judiciary has ordered the banning of the use of torture and other abuses. Suffice it to say that we believe him as much as we believe American and British officials condemning torture in Iraq.

Speaking about torture, Mahmood Salehi, the Baker’s Union leader who has been arrested before and severely tortured by the regime, causing even one of his kidneys to fail, has been re-arrested with several others, namely Jalal Hosseini, Borhan Divangard, Hadi Tanumand, Mohsen Hakimi, Mohammad Abdipur and Esmail Khodkam, for celebrating May Day, International Workers’ Day. The Islamic regime attacked their meeting organised in the city of Saqez in the Kurdistan province in Iran just as it was getting under way in one of the city’s parks. As the Worker-communist Party has said, celebrating May Day is a fundamental right of people and workers throughout the world. They must be not be imprisoned or tortured because of it. The regime must immediately and unconditionally release the May Day prisoners.

In news of the past week, we also heard that in Afghanistan, a Mujahedin commander who had killed over 20 people was the first person to be executed after the fall of the Taliban even though there wasn’t supposed to be any more executions there. Karzai was quoted as saying that ‘justice demanded that it not be delayed any longer’ though we know the executed didn’t get a proper trial, most probably because there are just too many people in the Loya Jirga and Afghan government who have murdered people with the accused and it wouldn’t look very good for them. Irrespective of what acts a person has committed, ‘capital punishment is the most deplorable and appalling form of intentional murder since a political authority, publicly, with prior notice, on behalf of society, with the utmost legitimacy and ruthlessness, decides to murder someone, and announces the date and time of the event’ (Mansoor Hekmat). Amnesty International has brought this execution to light and condemned it as we do.

Executions, torture and political prisoners have no place in the 21 century.

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