nations” of today are actually fulfilling the rights that they devised, agreed to and exhort the rest of the world toadhere to—especially, it seems, the Muslim world.Here is a sampling of some of the rights of that original convention(for the sake of brevity the laterconventions that were also agreed to shall be ignored here
Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
In the history of mankind, two sets of people are well known for compiling manuals and research on the artof torture: the members of the Inquisitionand the CIA.In recent times, perhaps everyone is familiar with the currentdebate in the United States about the use of torture on “terror” suspects.Although it is a very general reference source, it is interesting to note what the
hasto say about torture:
Until the 13th century torture was apparently not sanctioned by the canon law of the Christian church; aboutthat time, however, the Roman treason law began to be adapted to heresy as
crimen laesae majestatisDivinae
(“crime of injury to Divine majesty”). Soon after the Inquisition was instituted, Pope Innocent IV, influencedby the revival of Roman law, issued a decree (in 1252) that called on civil magistrates to have personsaccused of heresy tortured to elicit confessions against themselves and others; this was probably the earliestinstance of ecclesiastical sanction of this mode of examination… In the 20th century the use of torture wasrevived on a major scale by the National Socialist, Fascist, and Communist regimes of Europe, usually as aweapon of political coercion. In addition, the Communist governments made use of the so-calledbrainwashing technique, a form of psychological torture in which mental disorientation is induced bymethods such as forcing a prisoner to stay awake indefinitely. Brainwashing was practiced extensively onprisoners held by the Communists during the Korean War. Complaints about the use of physical andpsychological torture have also been lodged against many other regimes in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
The nerve of those fascists and communists! The nerve of those uncivilized countries in Latin America,Africa and Asia! This is not the proper place to enter into a critique of the use of torture by the “family of civilizednations” who first and foremost uphold “human rights.” The interested reader may consult, just to name a fewbooks,Alfred McCoy’s
A Question of Torture
Truth, Torture and the American Way
as wellas two books morespecific about the recent debate
Abu Ghraib:The Politics of Torture
The Torture Papers:The Road to Abu Ghraib.
The amazing aspect to mention is that during this debate in the media, there has been verylittle or no mention that freedom from torture is, according to what the United States’ government signed, afundamental human right.It should be noted that for decades now Muslim activists have faced torture in prisons throughout the worldwith, for the most part, the West turning a blind eye to such activities. Indeed, some Western writers—even one whoclaimsto be Sufi—defend such practices.For example, in Stephen Schwartz’s
The Two Faces of Islam: The Houseof Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror
, he states that Nasser’s regime’s “brutal repression of the Muslimbrotherhood…was both necessary and justified.”
Of course, he never notes that it was this brutality and torture inNasser’s prisons that truly led to the emergence of extremism in the Muslim world.
Other important international treaties include: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), theUN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966),the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979), the Convention againstTorture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), and the Convention on the Rightsof the Child (1989). Each of these is ratified by numerous countries. Interestingly, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by virtually every country in the world except the United States, the accepted leader of the “family of civilized nations” and Somalia, obviously a member, many of the West would imply, of the“barbaric” nations of the world.
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The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror
(New York: Doubleday,2002), p. 134.
Many of those extremists, it should be noted, found their way later to Afghanistan. For more on the development of this extremism under Nasser, see Abdul Rahmaan al-Luwaihiq,
Religious Extremism in the Lives of Contemporary Muslims
(Denver, CO: Al-Basheer Company for Publications and Translations, 2001), pp. 95-123.