The Guardian 16 February, 2005

Editorial

Terror and torture:
evidence continues to surface


More and more detail is flooding out about the torture of victims by US, Australian and British authorities caught up in the dirty war against Iraq. Once again Howard and his Ministers are repeatedly lying to obscure their complicity and to protect their US masters.

The falsity of the claims made about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has been underscored by another former Australian intelligence officer, Rod Barton, who resigned when his truthful information was censored and ignored.

Of course government authorities and those directly involved in torture will deny every accusation to save their own skins and to hang on to power for a bit longer in whatever way they can. However, there are now enough corroborative reports being published to make the accusations irrefutable.

What is coming to light is in direct violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on torture both of war combatants and civilians. The Conventions declare unequivocally that murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, torture, the taking of hostages, outrages upon personal dignity, humiliating and degrading treatment are "prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever". Prisoners of war shall "in all circumstances be treated humanely without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any similar criteria" say the Conventions.

The Australian, British and US governments have all signed these Conventions but they continue to systematically violate them.

The British tortured the Mau Mau rebels in Kenya in the 1950s. The French Foreign Legion, which was used against the national liberation movement of Algeria, was a force of ruthless professional killers. The Belgian authorities used torture in the Congo as the liberation movement there challenged Belgium's colonial rule

One can go back even further to the Japanese treatment of prisoners on the Burma railroad or the massacre of Chinese in Peking during the Japanese occupation of that country. Then there is the massacre of Indian citizens during the rule of the British colonialists and the slave trade from Africa to the emerging United States of America.

And it is happening now in Australia in the refugee detention centres. It has only received publicity as a consequence of the treatment of Cornelia Rau in both the Queensland jail and in the Baxter detention centre. Her treatment may not have been as extreme as that meted out to Mamdouh Habib (and many others) while in Egypt, Afghanistan and in Guantanamo but it is, nonetheless, extremely personally degrading and humiliating the criteria named in the Geneva Conventions.

One distressing aspect of the Cornelia Rau case is that, while there has been justifiable public outrage about what happened to her, the treatment is no more than has been and continues to be imposed on other inmates in the Howard government's detention centres. Why is there no similar outrage in the media about them? Is it that we are only concerned when this treatment is administered to "one of our own", while similar treatment to those from other countries remains cloaked in silence?

There is, however, a positive development as more newspaper and TV journalists and even intelligence agents are prepared to expose the lies of the authorities and the disgusting, illegal and inhumane treatment in the camps.

Nevertheless, the incidence of torture is increasing. Australian troops are being introduced to it, although they are supposedly being prepared for the possible use of torture against them. It is clear from the recently published accounts that some Australians have been present or have taken part in the torture by US personnel.

The increased use of torture is a product of the frightened authorities who lead the dying system of capitalism and imperialism and who are facing a world-wide mass movement of rejection.

Despite their declarations about "freedom", "democracy", "humanity", etc, it is the exact opposite that is taking place. Instead of freedom there is war and military occupation. Instead of democracy there is the imposition of governments that will comply with the demands of the conqueror. Present day colonialism, like its predecessors, comes with terror and torture. The US authorities are today's main terrorists and torturers. And that is becoming more and more obvious.

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