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Torture and Human Rights Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 9th, 2019

In order for all human beings to be treated equally, human rights have been outlined in the laws and regulations of the world. Even for people who are detained because of one reason or the other, they have certain rights as human beings which should be respected. However, there are times when various people, most especially governments, violate rights of people in various ways.

These mostly takes place when they know that the public has limited knowledge regarding what is going on and there is minimal probability that this will ever get to be known. In detentions for example, the main aim of the government is to get as maximum information as possible from the detainees (Briggs par 2).

Temptations are usually high that the people involved in the extraction of information will use any means possible to get what they want. At times like this, the media plays a crucial role in keeping the public aware of what is taking place in various government institutions. Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is one such place where violation of human rights was brought to the attention of the public by the media.

Abu Ghraib prison was previously used by former Iraq president Saddam Hussein. The US officials in Iraq took over after toppling the Iraq president (Shane par 3). Hardcore criminals and suspected terrorists are kept in this prison cells. During the war on Iraq, the American military held a lot of prisoners captive and placed them in this prison.

The main reason being it is a maximum security prison where escape was highly unlikely. However, US did not observe all its commitments to be fair to human beings. Inhumane acts were perpetrated on detainees during the period of 2003 to 2004. There were rumors that American soldiers were mistreating the prisoners and using uncouth means to get information from them but very few people believed that.

This was until what was exactly going on was leaked to the public. CBS television news show was able to get pictures of Iraq detainees being humiliated by us military personnel in 2004 (Sontag par1). The pictures depicted the dehumanizing conditions that the detainees were compelled to go through all in the name of extracting information from them.

These pictures were leaked by a soldier, Joe Darby, who had found them on a camera belonging to one of his colleagues. Though he had been promised that his identity would not be revealed, he was later exposed. However, the full state of affairs in Abu Ghraib prison came to the knowledge of the public when a report by the military into the first pictures leaked to an online magazine.

The pictures of detainees being tortured had also been aired on an Australian television. In the report from the American military, pictures of inhuman acts being perpetrated to Iraq detainees were shown (Task Force on Detainee Treatment par 4). Coincidentally, the dates of the pictures from the military report were the same as the dates that Joe claimed the acts took place.

Pictures of naked detainees heaped together on the floor were shown. Similarly, there were pictures of male detainees who were forced to wear women underwear on their heads. On the same note, detainees were subjected to adult pornography. It is crucial to note that most of the detainees were Muslims and these acts were against their religious beliefs.

In one of the pictures, there is a naked man and two soldiers who seem to be threatening the detainee with a dog (Fischer-Lescano 693). Torture of detainees seems to be the order of the day which is enjoyed by the soldiers. Similarly, there are pictures of several detainees who seem to be dead.

The extent of human rights violations by the US soldiers cannot be over emphasized. The United Nations declaration of human rights is very explicit on how all human beings should be treated. To begin with, article one of the declaration states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. As a result, people should act towards one another with the spirit of brotherhood.

Article five states clearly that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment (Froomkin par 5). This article is very clear that there are no exceptions as it regards inhumane treatment of people. Not even a prisoner should be subjected to any kind of torture. It is sad that of all the countries, the United State would allow torture of detainees to take place under its very own watch.

The military doctors like all other doctors have taken an oath of alleviating human suffering and do anything within their ability to save lives. Unfor6tunately, they were the ones involved in the heinous acts. The acts were designed and in some instances committed by the doctors. Instead of ensuring that no human being was subjected to harm, they helped in the infliction of harm.

It is important to note that doctors are supposed to put human lives first than national security (Casteel 76). To them society is expected to be crucial and this is their duty to the community. As a matter of fact, confidence of medical reports is one of the rights bestowed to clients.

As a doctor, one is not supposed to reveal the medical information of a patient unless that is required by law. Nevertheless, the doctors and physicians at Abu Ghraib gave out medical information of patients and the same was used to torture the detainees. Moreover, if prisoners are on hunger strike, doctors are not supposed to feed them by force.

Military medical practitioners went against these requirements and forcefully fed detainees who were on hunger strike (Cannon 73). It is worth noting that this was not only against the doctors and physicians code of ethics but also against human rights. The medical information that was gained from the medics was later used by the government agents to extract information from the detainees.

Moreover, it has been alleged that psychologists were present during interrogation where detainees were subjected to traumatizing conditions (Institute on Medicine as a Profession par 5). Though some people have argued that doctors were following orders and could not have avoided doing what was required by authorities, evidence has it that one can avoid that.

Among the torturous acts that are depicted in the pictures are naked human beings that are compelled to form a human pyramid. In the first place, it is degrading to force a human being to take off his or her clothes in front of others. Telling them to form a pyramid in that condition is excruciating. The dignity of a human being is in his or her ability to uphold self-esteem.

People are bound to lose self confidence and self-esteem if they are compelled to undress and perform various acts in that situation. This is psychological torture that can lead to depression and even suicide (Strasser 56). It is against the Muslim culture to be naked in front of other people. This is what the US soldiers forced the detainees to do, go against their culture.

Whether one expects to get information from a detainee or not, torture can never be justified. According to the 1984 Geneva Convention no exemptions whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, should be given to warrant torture on human beings. Sexual abuses are also reported to have been committed by the soldiers on the detainees.

Some of the detainees who were interviewed said that soldiers said they will rape them as well as their wives. Detainees are shown in the leaked pictures and video tapes being forced to stand in compromising positions while holding their buttocks. How a normal human being would do this to a fellow person beats logic. Some pictures also show detainees lined up in sexually explicit positions (Hersh par 6).

The inhumane acts went to the extent of male detainees being compelled to masturbate in front of camera. In some of the pictures, detainees can be seen to be piled up while they are naked. There are also images of the American soldiers sitting on top of these detainees. It is very cruel to jump on top of people who have been piled up. This inflicts injuries on these detainees.

Naked detainees can also be seen standing on boxes while there have sand bags on their heads. This is probably not the worst part of it. The climax of cruelty in this torturous expedition is the attaching of wires on the fingers, toes and private parts of male detainees to trigger electrical shocks (Carvel par 3). It is unimaginable that a man can do these to a fellow man knowing very well the kind of pain that this person will undergo.

Rape can also be manifested in some of the pictures. Some detainees were raped by guards. This was done in front of other detainees. These is dehumanizing as it makes one to lose self esteem. Rape itself is a very tormenting issue for any lady (Task Force on Detainee Treatment par 4). Nevertheless, the fact that the action was committed in the full view of other people makes the victim feel worthless and unable to even protect her own dignity.

Several detainees can be seen to be having injuries on various parts of their bodies and furious dogs near them. These injuries would probably have been as a result of dog bites. In other pictures, detainees have been chained to beds or doors and dogs let free to threaten them. It remains unclear whether these detainees survived the ordeal. Detainees are unarmed in the prisons where they are placed (Briggs par 7).

Moreover, the detainees would not have resisted any order to warrant the use of dogs. Why the American soldiers decided to use dogs on the detainees remains a mystery. What is more sickening in the pictures is the fact that the American soldiers seem to be enjoying each bit of the heinous actions. A female soldier is seen in one of the pictures giving thumbs up sign while a detainee who seems to be in excruciating pain is lying down.

On other pictures, soldiers pose for pictures with bodies of detainees. How a human being can find it comfortable to be happy for torturing another person to death is shocking (Zimmerman 74). On the same note, the fact that the soldiers got time to take pictures while torturing the detainees is a proof enough that they enjoyed doing it. Posing cheerfully for a picture with the body of a person you have killed is the height of animosity.

Evidence shows that some guards urinated on naked detainees while they laughed at them. This was done in order to show the detainees their inability to do anything to the American soldiers. A soldier also jumped on a detainee’s leg which had been injured from gun fire. As a soldier, ethics demand that one is supposed to ensure safety of a detainee unless the detainee is armed and reacts otherwise.

On the contrary, American soldiers made sure that this injured detainee will never heal properly. As if that was not enough, the soldiers continued beating the injured detainee on the wounded leg with a rod. In some instances, the guards even poured phosphoric acid on detainees (Benjamin par 4).

All these took place because the soldiers thought there was no way information about what they were doing would leak to the public. Nobody was there to tell the world what went on inside the closed doors of the Abu Ghraib Prisons, at least to the best of their knowledge. They treated the detainees with such cruelty that one would wonder whether the soldiers were really human beings or they had turned into animals.

Fortunately, the media was there to bring these atrocities to the knowledge of the world. Media is not just there to report the politics that usually dominate the daily news (Benvenisti 35). It is the work of the media to fight for social justice by exposing various injustices that take place in the society.

People all over the world need to know the truth of what is going on in society. There are a lot of evils happening in society and somehow concerned organizations are not ready to explicitly say the truth. On the same note, governments have been proved to manipulate state organizations making it difficult for the truth of what exactly takes place to see the light of the day.

Therefore, the general public needs a watchdog that will help to expose what governments as well as other corporations are doing. In this regard, investigative reporting is very crucial in closing the gap of information that exists. Investigative journalism is a branch of journalism in which a reporter carries out in depth analysis of a topic of his or her interest (Hersh par 6).

Usually, investigative reporting reports about topics that are of public interest for example, corruption, crime, corporate wrong doing and various government scandals. Investigative reporting involves analysis of social and legal issues of the topic. To begin with, investigative reporting will help in shedding light on some societal issues like government practices which have for a long time been kept in the dark.

Moreover, it entails investigation of important documents and scrutiny of government and business practices in order to understand their effects to society. However, since investigative reporting is based on solid evidence, it will enable the public to get a clear picture of what is really happening in various sectors of the government (Casteel 87).

In this regard, media played a very crucial role in exposing the Abu Ghraib pictures. To begin with, such a massive violation of human rights required huge exposure that was only possible through the media. It is the role off the media to fight for social justice whenever possible (Task Force on Detainee Treatment par 4). This can be achieved through bringing any vice perpetrated in the society to the knowledge of the public.

There is no way that one can commit atrocities if he or she knows that the public will know about the same. Media ensured that pictures from Abu Ghraib received as much attention as possible. By doing this, the media was ensuring that each and every member of the society got to know what our elite American soldiers had turned into in Iraq. On the same note, media brought the picture of what is expected from our soldiers whenever they are on duty in any given part of the world (Benjamin par 5).

Moreover, media repeatedly outlined what is contained in the UN Convention of Human rights. All this was done in order to show the public how far the soldiers had gone against the law. It is important to note that media tried as much as possible to bring the inner meaning of the pictures to the public. Many people might have just looked at the pictures as one of the tragedies that are usually witnessed in the world.

But no, that was not just another calamity. It was animosity at its worst and that is what the media wanted the general public to know. Besides the explanations that were given by the media regarding the issue, pictures were broadcasted in a sequential manner to give emphasis to the matter (Shane par 7). Various media stations not only in America but also in other parts of the world show cased the issue to varying extents.

While ordinary citizens might not have known who was responsible for what particular role as far as the Abu Ghraib torture was concerned, media took that duty of informing the public on the role of each concerned party. The ethical requirements that were breached by various people were also enumerated by the media thus making the general public understand the density of the issues.

Physicians and other medical practitioners are expected to be the course of healing for people not the cause of suffering. The oath to which these people subscribe to during their graduation is their covenant to the general public (Sontag par 9). Media brought to the public knowledge that in more than one occasion, this covenant was defiled by the same people who are supposed to respect it.

As a matter of fact, it is the role of media to inform the society on every issue that takes place. Where the government goes wrong, people should be told. On the same note, media has the role of ensuring that whatever is broadcasted has supporting evidence and is not based on hearsay. Every person in the society tends to believe that before media airs any news, they should carryout investigations.

In the case of Abu Ghraib pictures, media confirmed their authenticity before bringing them to the attention of the public. Most importantly, media forms a very good channel through which one can shed light on any vice in society (Froomkin par 6). If the Abu Ghraib issue was first reported to a different agency, chances are that it would have been covered. Media can bring out a story about any issue in society without revealing the identity of the person who leaked the story.

Moreover, one will be confident that if he or she leaks a story to the media the public will get to know about it. This is why the media was essential in exposing the vices that were going on in Abu Ghraib. Notably, the authorities could have known what was going on at Abu Ghraib. There was no way all those atrocities would have taken place without the knowledge of the authorities.

But they chose not to take any action until media focused on the issue. Even after the matter had been exposed, the investigations that were carried out by the department of defense were shoddy (Cannon 87). All they cared about was how to justify their actions or exonerate themselves from blame. It was up to the media to play its role of informing the society on what was going on.

Medics used military excuses to violate fundamental regulations of their profession. In the pretext that they were safety officers, medical practitioners were involved in interrogation of detainees which is against their professional code of conduct. Medical practitioners did not apply independent judgment during the course of duty as required.

Although the Army Surgeon General had recommended the adoption of international medical standards and reporting of abuse against detainees, that did not happen. Those on the ground did what they thought was good. It is only through the media that this information was disseminated to the public.

One way of non-violent fighting for human rights in the society is by exposing the people who are involved in various acts that violate human rights. When even a small hint about the probability of one committing an act that violates human rights is brought to the knowledge of the public, people fear to commit that act.

Media may not have the necessary legal capability of preventing or stopping human rights violations from taking place, but they can make the responsible departments aware. That was what the media did. Media focused on Abu Ghraib issue explaining it from all angles possible.

On the same note, media ensured that the public got to know who would have stopped the vices and who allowed them to go on (Zimmerman 69). The chain of responsibility was made open so that citizens and the world in general would know who bears the blame of allowing Abu Ghraib torture to take place. While most people feared to use the correct names to refer to what was going on in Abu Ghraib, the media did not.

Torture and various human rights violations were called by their names. Avoidance to use the correct name is one of the ways of avoiding to address an issue. Notably, the media helped in initiating investigations in to the allegations. America, being one of the countries that strongly advocates for respect of human rights by being a signatory of the international convention against torture, should not have allowed such actions to take place under the watch of senior state officials.

Bringing the pictures to the attention of the public meant that more people became aware of what was taking place and thereby started investigating the matter. On the same note, all investigations require evidence or suspicion in order to commence. Media helped in providing the evidence that was required in order for various organizations to start investigations into Abu Ghraib issue.

It is important to note that lack of awareness about an issue that is taking place will in itself be a hindrance to investigations (Benvenisti 93). By making public the pictures of Abu Ghraib, the media was able to disseminate the necessary information to sensitize the public on what exactly was happening in the prison. In this regard, it enabled various lobby groups to start investigations.

Another way through which the media helped in starting investigations into the Abu Ghraib matter is by highlighting the extent to which ethical codes were being breached. Doctors, physicians and nurses all used the military uniforms and national security as an excuse to go against their ethical code of conduct (Institute on Medicine as a Profession par 8).

Similarly, military officers went against the international laws on how to treat detainees and committed crimes against humanity on the detainees. All these were brought to the fore by the media. It was, therefore, easier for various professional bodies whose members were involved in these acts to take the necessary steps.

Arguably, the media was very essential in exposing the seriousness of the matter at hand. The coverage that media gave to the pictures was substantial to tell any person that the pictures were not just any news. Moreover, various media platforms sought advice and opinion from experts in the field of human rights and military detainees to expound on the Abu Ghraib pictures (Carvel par 5).

In this way, the picture of the atrocities that were being committed to detainees was made clearer thus enabling lawyers and other groups to know how to position their cases. Moreover, media tried as much as possible to find the people who were responsible for each function in the prison. Those in charge of discipline were exposed. On the same note, medics who either designed or allowed various forms of torture to take place, or those who actually perpetrated the atrocities were exposed.

It was therefore easier to note the person who was to blame for each action. This highly propelled investigations into the matter. Besides, the pictures were very clear and everybody would see who was doing what and this necessitated investigation (Briggs par 9). In addition, the fact that the pictures went viral to the whole world compelled the government to take some steps and actually carry out investigations into the issue.

Was it not that the media exposed the pictures; chances are that the government would have looked for ways of concealing the crimes. The reaction of the government was to relieve some soldiers form duty for taking part in the heinous actions. Department of defense of the United States carried out investigations into the matter with the aim of finding officials who bore the greatest responsibility.

Those that were found to be responsible were charged in courts-martial. Some were dishonorably dismissed from service while others were imprisoned. Some specialists were also imprisoned for taking part or allowing torture of detainees (Task Force on Detainee Treatment par 8). On the same note, some superior officers were demoted as was recommended by the research carried out by department of defense.

This notwithstanding, it is important to state categorically here that nothing much was done by the government. To begin with, the bush government did not accept that what happened in Abu Ghraib was tantamount to crimes against humanity. Instead, they sought to use a different name in order to diverge from the truth. People were tortured and that is not a secret.

What was more disgusting was actually not what the pictures depicted prima facie, but the fact that the soldiers enjoyed doing this. People usually take pictures to remind them of the good memories that they will not want to forget (Fischer-Lescano 721). That is what torture in Abu Ghraib was to the American soldiers, good worthy memories that they could not afford to lose.

All vices in society need to be exposed and the people involved ashamed. America is the world’s loudest advocator for human rights. How it could allow its own soldiers to torture and even kill unarmed detainees all in the name of national security is hard to understand.

Consequently, media had to play its role of informing the public. Somebody had to expose the atrocities that were being committed to the detainees and media presented the best channel. While media may not have gained access to all the information regarding the authorization and directing of torture at Abu Ghraib, it helped in bringing justice by exposing what was going on. Thanks to the media people the world was able to know how far the authorities can go all in the name of getting information from detainees.

Works Cited

Benjamin, Mark. “Salon Exclusive: The Abu Ghraib Files.” Salon, 16 February 2006. Web.

Benvenisti, Meron. Abu Ghraib: The Politics of Torture. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2004. Print.

Briggs, Bill. “Big, Striking Horror:’ US military Doctors allowed Torture of Detainees, New Studty Claims.” NBC NEWS. 4 November 2013. Web.

Cannon, Michael. Abu Ghraib. Maitland: Xulon Press, 2005. Print.

Carvel, John. “Abu Ghraib Doctors Knew of Torture, says Lancet Report.” The Guardian, 20 August 2004. Web.

Casteel, Joshua. Letters from Abu Ghraib. New York: Essay Press, 2008. Print.

Fischer-Lescano, Andreas. “Torture in Abu Ghraib: The Complaint against Donald Rumsfeld under the German Code of Crimes against International Law.” German Law Journal 6.3(2003): 689-724.Print.

Froomkin, Dan. “New Questions about Abu Ghraib”. The Washington Post, 18 June 2007. Web.

Hersh, Seymour M. “Torture at Abu Ghraib.” The New Yorker, 10 May 2004. Web.

Institute on Medicine as a Profession. “Medic, Military, and Ethics Experts Say Health Professional Designed and Participated in Cruel, Inhumane, and Degrading Treatment and Torture of Detainees; Seek Policies to Assure Conformance With Ethical Principals.” Institute on Medicine as a Profession, n.d. Web.

Shane, Scott. “U.S. Engaged in Torture After 9/11, Review Concludes.”The New York Times, 16 April 2013. Web.

Sontag, Susan. “Regarding the Torture of Others.” The New York Times, 23 May 2013. Web.

Strasser, Steven. The Abu Ghraib Investigations: The Official Reports of the Independent Panel and Pentagon on the Shocking Prisoner Abuse in Iraq. New York: Public Affairs, 2004. Print.

Task Force on Detainee Treatment. “Detainee Treatment.” Task Force on Detainee Treatment, n.d. Web.

Zimmerman, Frederick. Basic Documents about the Treatment of the Detainees at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. Ann Arbor: Nimble Books, (2004). Print.

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