Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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Creating Permanent Memories of Torture

Image from http://www.mhpbooks.com

Image from http://www.mhpbooks.com

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Since Christmas 2014, it’s been possible to buy a book version of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program on global book selling websites like Book Depository and Amazon.[1]

The book version of the “torture report,” as it’s commonly known, was published by independent New York publisher Melville House. According to media accounts, it took 72 hours and the services of a dozen employees and a team of volunteers to transform the torture report into a properly formatted manuscript ready to send to the printers for publication as a paperback and ebook. Before it was a book, the torture report was (and still is) available as a PDF document that can be freely downloaded from the Internet. Continue Reading →


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Torture Admission by US at UN Treaty Body Review

Image: Witness Against Torture/flickr

By Cynthia Banham,

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

The United States official left the UN Committee Against Torture in no doubt when he appeared before it last month: the US used torture as a matter of policy after 11 September 2001.[1]

‘[W]e do not claim to be perfect,’ Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tom Malinowski, told the Committee. ‘A little more than ten years ago, our government was employing interrogation methods that, as President Obama has said, any fair-minded person would believe were torture.’[2] In the same breath, Malinowski also noted that torture not only devastates its victims, but harms people and countries that use it and is employed to coerce false confessions – or to inflict suffering for its own sake.

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Torture, the War on Terror, and The New York Times

By Cynthia Banham,

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Image: www.tytnetwork.com

Last month, The New York Times decided it was time to ‘recalibrate’ its language to describe aspects of the US’s treatment of detainees in the war on terror. The executive editor, Dean Banquet, released a statement announcing that, at the urging of the newspaper’s reporters, from now on it would use the word ‘torture’ to describe some of the more brutal interrogation methods the CIA used against detainees under the Bush Administration. Previously the newspaper had used euphemisms favoured by the Bush Administration to describe these practices, such as ‘harsh or brutal interrogation methods’. Continue Reading →


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The UK Detainee Inquiry: accountability promises unfulfilled

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib Image from the Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AbuGhraibAbuse-standing-on-box.jpg

Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib
Image from the Wikimedia Commons

Six days before the Christmas just gone, the British government unexpectedly released the public version of the report of the Detainee Inquiry into torture complicity by British officials after 11 September 2001. Established in 2010, the Detainee Inquiry was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron soon after taking office. It followed a series of damaging court cases brought by Britain’s detainees in the war on terror (citizens and residents) over their alleged torture, and the UK’s involvement.

The Report of the Detainee Inquiry raises many difficult questions for the government and its intelligence agencies, but makes no findings. Some of the questions concern official advice given to British intelligence agents who witnessed the torture of terrorist suspects to the effect that “there was no obligation to intervene”. Others relate to whether the UK became “inappropriately” involved in the US’s extraordinary rendition program. Continue Reading →


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Omar Khadr – the Child Soldier Turned Adult Prisoner: Abuse and Neglect by the US and Canada

By Veronica Fynn 

Omar Khadr, aged 14 Source: Wikimedia

Omar Khadr, aged 14
Source: Wikimedia

The Committee welcomes the recent return of Omar Kadr to the custody of the State party. However, the Committee is concerned that as a former child soldier, Omar Kadr has not been accorded the rights and appropriate treatment under the Convention. In particular, the Committee is concerned that he experienced grave violations of his human rights, which the Canadian Supreme Court recognized, including his maltreatment during his years of detention in Guantanamo, and that he has not been afforded appropriate redress and remedies for such violations. The Committee urges the State party to promptly provide a rehabilitation programme for Omar Kadr that is consistent with the Paris Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups and ensure that Omar Khadr is provided with an adequate remedy for the human rights violations that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled he experienced.

– Committee on the Rights of the Child[1]

Between 1983 and 2005, some 20,000 Nuer and Dinka boys – dubbed the ‘Lost Boys of Sudan’[2] – aged between 7 and 17 years, were orphaned, displaced and forcibly conscripted due to the Sudanese Civil War. Emmanuel Jal,[3] now a famous musician, was recruited along with his father by the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army at the age of seven, after his mother was killed by Government forces. Continue Reading →


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“He put electric shock on me”: a glimpse of the persistent, widespread practice of torture in Papua

Matan Klembiap
Photograph courtesy of Anum Siregar, Democratic Alliance for Papua

By Budi Hernawan

On 15 February 2013, in the sub-district of Depapre (approximately 30 kilometres west of the Papuan provincial capital of Jayapura), six Papuan men were arrested and detained by the local police. Daniel Gobay (30), Arsel Kobak (23), Eneko Pahabol (23), Yosafat Satto (41), and Salim Yaru (35) were in a car when the police stopped and searched them. Matan Klembiap (40), who was on his motorbike behind the car that the police stopped, was also detained. During the police interrogation all of the men were tortured to confess that they knew the whereabouts of two key pro-Papuan independence activists, Sebby Sambom and Terrianus Sato, who have gone into hiding. On the following day, four of the men were released without any charge; Daniel Gobay and Matan Klembiap remain in police custody, charged with “possessing a sharp weapon” under the Emergency Regulation 12/1951, a legacy from the Dutch colonial laws. Continue Reading →


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Zero Dark Thirty: Airbrushing Torture

By Cynthia Banham

Centre for International Governance and Justice

Regarding Rights is pleased to re-publishZero Dark Thirty: Airbrushing Torture” by CIGJ PhD scholar Cynthia Banham, originally written for the Lowy Institute’s blog The Interpreter. Zero Dark Thirty has generated considerable controversy for its portrayal of torture; readers may also be interested in this article from the New York Times, which locates the film within debates about whether Hollywood has an obligation of fidelity to ‘historical truth’.

We thank the editors of The Interpreter for their permission to post Cynthia’s article here. Continue Reading →