The United States of America has historically been regarded as a moral leader opening the pathway for human rights. The country which has long struggled for the establishment of the rule of law – as well as to be a model for other nations in observing it – has, since 11 September 2001 committed abhorrent practices of torture against which it has fought when committed by others. What seems astonishing is that such practices took place in the U.S. within a climate of significant public indifference and even with some public support. Time and again, observers of tragic historic events reveal that it is not so much the evil doing of the few which allows the worst atrocities to occur, as it is the indifference of the many. The Bush administration assumed neither moral nor legal responsibility, and in the end, it is hard-put to show what positive results may have been obtained for so many transgressions.
The history of law and legal institutions has long proven the error of accepting the Machiavellian principle that the ends justify the means. In addition, the proposition that torture prevents terrorism cannot be proven true. Under torture, people tend to say whatever is expected of them. However, this is not only about pragmatic pursuits. It is about morality and ethics. The judgment has already been made that torture is unlawful.
In addition, the Guantánamo Bay practices and the unlawful seizure of persons in different parts of the world by the CIA after which they are transferred to countries where they are tortured, have proven that reliable evidence is highly unlikely to be attained under torture. In addition, most detainees have been proven to have no connection to terrorism, and most of them have been released because they were wrongly arrested. Guantánamo represents a failed policy that has caused much damage to the moral authority of the United States.
Aberrant views of torture as necessary because ”the ends justify the means” have not generated much negative reaction from the legal profession, despite the fact that the 1984 Convention against Torture, the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. Constitution, and the laws of the United States have clearly prohibited such practices. Are the events of September 11, 2001 enough to have us reopen the question of whether the medieval practice of torture should be allowed? Are they enough to have its institutionalized practice undermine the integrity of the American legal process and our system of law and undermine the US’ moral leadership in the world? The answer to these questions has to be a resounding and unqualified ‘no’. The US must, therefore, take quick and confident action to make amends and to hold responsible those who promoted a policy of torture.
About this book:
Cherif Bassiouni has authored the definitive story of the history of the U.S. misadventure into abyss of torture. He has somehow managed to write a very readable book on very dark a topic. He captures the history, law, politics, psychology, emotion, heroes and villains of a very unfortunate aspect of our response to 9/11. It’s is a tough subject, but an important read for anyone who wants to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated by this great nation.
John D. Hutson, Dean, University of New Hampshire School of Law, RADM, JAGC, USN, (ret.)
Bassiouni’s The Institutionalization of Torture exquisitely detailed the way in which American governmental institutions bypassed international law in order to allow the creation of a policy that allowed torture. Bassiouni paints a striking portrait of the abuses and violations of international law by Bush’s Administration, the way these actions strike at the heart of the American tradition, and the actions that must be taken to save America’s collective conscience.
Prof. Karen Greenberg, Executive Director of the Center on Law and Security, NYU School of Law
A careful and searing analysis of what went wrong when the Bush administration chose torture as an anti-terror tactic, and an eloquent and impassioned call for the accountability that the United States has thus far utterly failed to pursue.
David D. Cole, John Carroll Research Professor of Law, Georgetown University.
Author of ‘The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable’
President Obama apparently has stopped the torture of the Bush administration, but he has refused to investigate or prosecute those who ordered and authorized this official criminality. Cherif Bassiouni’s superb presentation of these criminal policies and his critique of the impunity and rationalizations behind them should spur the Obama administration not only to abide by the law but also to apply it. Only by thus reestablishing the rule of law can he ensure that future administration treat torture not as a viable policy option but as an inexcusable crime.
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
Cherif Bassiouni, as the pre-eminent scholar in the field of international criminal law, speaks to us with unquestioned mastery of the complex legal issues involved in the Bush administration’s torture practices. But his work is also imbued with personal outrage and compelling moral authority. This is legal scholarship at its best, explaining the world in order to change it. Instantly, this book becomes the authoritative work in this field.
Prof. William Schabas, Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway
‘An overdue and courageous book.’
Rainer Huhle on www.menschenrechte.org (Feb. 2011)
‘[…] well documented and […] a useful resource for policymakers and practitioners in this area of the law.’
Bruce Zagaris in the International Enforcement Law Reporter 27 (2011) 835
‘[…]an outstanding tool for use in international criminal law courses, academic study, but also should be a guide to practicing lawyers in the US and elsewhere.’
Johannes van Aggelen in Criminal Law Forum (2012) 23:243–251
‘Bassiouni’s work is impressively thorough, incorporating an array of sources from training manuals to news reports to secret memoranda, government documents, court transcripts, and the like.’
Devon E. Colberg in Critical Criminology (2013) 247
About the author
M. Cherif Bassiouni is Distinguished Research Professor of Law Emeritus at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago, Illinois, and President Emeritus of the College’s International Human Rights Law Institute (IHRLI). He is also president of the International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (ISISC) in Siracusa, Italy, and Honorary President of the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP) in Paris, France.
From 1977 to 1978, he was co-chair of the Committee of Experts which prepared the first draft of the 1984 Convention Against Torture. From 1992 to 1994, he was member, then chairman, of the Security Council’s Commission to Investigate War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia. He was an Independent Expert for the Commission on Human Rights on The Rights to Restitution, Compensation and Rehabilitation for Victims of Grave Violations of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1998–2000), and the United Nations Independent Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2006. In the former Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan, Professor Bassiouni had first-hand experience in recording many cases of arbitrary arrest and detention of innocent persons, rape and torture.
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