NEW YORK - November 2 - As Congress considers new
legislation reinforcing the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment, a new book illuminates the practice of torture around the
world and examines how recent policy shifts in the United States have
undermined the global ban on torture.
Called "required reading" in the November issue of Vanity Fair,
Torture: Does It Make Us Safer, Is It Ever OK? is an up-to-the-minute
exploration of this wrenching topic. Now available in bookstores, the
book is published by the New Press and Human Rights Watch.
Revelations of torture and degradation at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.
detention facilities have galvanized both proponents and opponents of
"Who would have thought we would still be debating the use of
torture?" said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights
Watch and co-editor of the book. "But when a government as
dominant and influential as the United States openly defies the
absolute ban on mistreating detainees, its conduct jeopardizes
In this new book, essays by leading thinkers and experts cross
continents and centuries to offer a timely exploration of the global
debates on torture—the legality of the practice, the extent of its use,
the pain it inflicts and its questionable effectiveness.
In his contribution to the book, former prisoner of war Senator John
McCain argues against throwing out the Geneva Conventions'
prohibitions on torture. Last month, in a 90-9 vote, the U.S. Senate
approved a measure sponsored by Republican Senators John McCain
and Lindsey Graham that would, contrary to Bush administration
policy, prohibit the military and CIA from using "cruel, inhuman, or
degrading treatment" for any detainee in U.S. custody anywhere in the
In his introduction, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth
Roth sets out how the shifting U.S. position has undermined the global
prohibition on torture. Tom Malinowski reveals how the U.S. is
engaging in practices that its own State Department regularly
condemns when performed by other governments around the world.
In other chapters, Michael Ignatieff counters Alan Dershowitz's
controversial "ticking time-bomb" scenario as a justification for using
torture, and Israeli human rights advocate Eitan Felner spotlights
Israel's failed experiment legalizing the mistreatment of detainees in
supposed emergency situations.
British barrister Cherie Booth writes about sexual violence and the
torture of women. Sir Nigel Rodley, the former United Nations torture
rapporteur, tells of his experiences negotiating with torturers
Juan Méndez, U.N. special advisor on genocide prevention, writes for
the first time about his own horrific experience of torture. Argentine
Consul General Héctor Timerman gives a harrowing account of the
Argentine military dictatorship's torture of his father and the impact
this had on his family.
"For a number of the writers in this book, torture is not an abstract
concept," said Minky Worden, media director of Human Rights Watch
and co-editor of the book. "These voices and perspectives will lead
even the staunchest backers of torture to question their beliefs."
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