the apocalypse dream sequence: april 13th
we were a group of about twenty off in some Eastern-flung place, learning French by the sea with my old teacher from secondary school, and the trip was just ending and I was thinking over what it was for so many years invested in one thing to be over. grey-blue sea grey-blue sky, we were running around in the water at a remote spit reaching out into the mist towards the end of the day - there was nothing there, when somehow, all of a sudden, we were back outside the place where we were staying, a big squat brown-brick building, watching one last sunset before we were due to leave, and everything was a kind of cold-lit yellow grey. we were between two walls just next to the building jutting out like stony revetments, with a dark roof weighing heavy above, looking out to sea – and the sun, dirty orange against the grey had just about disappeared but then rose up into view again, luminous grey with a pale yellow halo shining around it – and dreaming-me didn’t see that this was awful but I did.
"while we do our good works let us not forget that the real solution lies in a world in which charity will have become unnecessary"
- Chinua Achebe, Anthills of the Savannah
We will make you regret everything: Freedom from Torture on the ill wind blowing in Iran
Freedom from Torture is a charitable organisation providing direct clinical assistance and advocacy to survivors of torture in the United Kingdom. This research report published March 2013, entitled We will make you regret everything: Torture in Iran since the 2009 elections looks at 50 cases (40 men, 10 women) documented by their Medico-Legal Report Service in the UK, with a particular focus on cases relating to the period in the run-up to and after the Iranian presidential elections which took place on 12th June 2009. Whilst Iran is not a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, or the relevant protocols, it is a signatory to the ICCPR (in which torture is prohibited under Article 7), torture is prohibited by Article 38 of the Iranian constitution, and the prohibition on torture is, in any case, a jus cogens norm in customary international law, meaning that Iran is bound by it no matter which treaty conventions it has signed. Again, Iran is not a signatory to the 2009 UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, but again, the prohibition on enforced disappearance is a jus cogens norm by which Iran is bound notwithstanding its treaty/convention (non-)commitments.
Globalising Torture: A digested read of some unpalatable truths
Note: I’m currently working on a phenomenology of torture in politics and morality, but in the light of today’s allegations that the Pentagon is/was linked to Iraqi torture centres, I thought I perhaps ought not to sit on this piece, first given as a presentation for Law in War at the LSE.
The Open Society Justice Initiative published a report on February 5th 2013 entitled Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition. It sets out country-by-country; detainee-by-detainee, the alleged participation and/or complicity of fifty-four governments in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition and secret detention programmes. According to the UN Committee Against Torture General Comment no. 2 of Jan 24th 2008, participation and complicity involve “directly committing, instigating, inciting, encouraging, acquiescing in or otherwise participating or being complicit [in acts of torture.]” (OSJI 2013 p 29)
Now secret detention refers to the CIA programme for establishing black sites outside of the US where victims were kept in CIA custody, and in around a third of cases (33/100), subject to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ These techniques included practices such as “walling,” “water dousing,” “stress positions,” “wall standing,” “cramped confinement” in a box, “insult slaps,”“facial hold,” “attention grasp,” forced nudity, sleep deprivation while being vertically shackled, and dietary manipulation. (OSJI 2013 p 18)
As for extraordinary rendition, it might best be considered in contrast with so-called “normal” rendition. Rendition is “the transfer – without legal process – of a detainee for purposes of criminal prosecution either into the US or to the custody of a foreign government” (OSJI 2013 p 15), and was authorised by Reagan in 1986 under National Security Decision Directive 207 as rendition to justice, but only where transfer could not be secured via rendition treaties. Yet when the twin towers came down, the “gloves c[a]me off” (OSJI p 13, Cofer Black, Director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center), and the CIA obtained broad authority for the extraordinary rendition programme. The term has yet to be defined by the US government as a matter of policy, however, and so the OSJI has proposed its own: “the transfer – without legal process – of a detainee to the custody of a foreign government for purposes of detention and interrogation” (OSJI p 7).
Secret detention meant that victims were held in CIA custody; extraordinary rendition meant that victims were held in foreign government custody, but “torture was a hallmark of both” (OSJI p 7).
So what did the “active participation of foreign governments” (OSJI p 8) consist in? Allegedly:
Félix Thiollier // Arbre et nuage sur un étang à Mornand // Musée d’Orsay
the apocalypse dream sequence: february 5th
it all had to end because we’d ruined it, and we knew that that was why, He’d told us so - we knew there’d be a huge solar flare just after sunrise, and people were aimless dancing-crying and just didn’t know what to do; we couldn’t commit to our sorrow and nor to our joy and we were just spinning the streets in this great side-stepped carnival haze, desperate shining already bereft of our lives - we were in London but somehow passed the Thiepval monument in our sky-sad wanderings, her arches imploring in stern remembrance that some things had indeed mattered, even as we sang ourselves otherwise trying to sweep away the solemnity of our ending; stony imploring in remembrance of all those soft and full-breathed lives tipped blind-terrored into unmarked halls of mud and flesh in the name of king and country – but we couldn’t dwell with them, there were police of all nationalities; the governments of all the nations descended in one last-ditch attempt to keep the peace if they couldn’t keep the world, and – still me - I shouted bonsoir to two gendarmes, catching their navy uniforms fond-eyed, and I turned and told whoever it was standing with me unseen that they made me feel like home - and oh two good friends were there at the bend in the road and I held them close still and sobbing