When torture is Justified
Dear Ms Kennedy,
Lara Marlowe writes another absorbing article in today's Irish Times (17/10/05). The story of an honest man arrested, tortured and imprisoned for many years returning to see his tormentor punished. What a fair trial would be for this tormentor is hard to define. Luckily the tormented, Dr. Shahrsitani, shares an important lesson in humanity, "I am very happy that he has not been put on trial in the same way he put us on trial."
Unfortunately this man's inconceivably wise words bear little resemblence to our supposedly justified anti-terrorism measures. Human Rights Watch has not been alone in reporting the coalition's flagrant abuse of humanitarian law, but it has been one of very few organisations to question the morality of their own governments breaches of international law.
The "extraordinary renditions" programme, which allows the United States to target suspected terrorists anywhere in the world, kidnap them and transport them to countries such as Egypt, Uzbekistan or Morocco, where the term torture is much more loosely defined, is in full swing now. Backed by operations conducted in Guantanamo the list of honest men arrested, tortured and imprisoned for many years is growing. The difference, unfortunately for these men, is that they are extremely unlikely to ever see their tormentors put on trial.
Will we ever know how many honest men's only experience of Ireland was that spent in Shannon airport on their way, ironically, to internment without trial. Do we condone the actions we help facilitate?
Saddam torture victim to attend trial
IRAQ: An honest man is arrested, tortured and imprisoned for many years. He escapes and after a long exile, returns home to see his tormentor punished.
Hussein Shahristani's life is a 21st-century version of Alexandre Dumas's great novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. Tomorrow Dr Shahristani has been given one of the rare, highly-prized seats at the opening session of Saddam Hussein's trial.
"They asked me to testify against him," Dr Shahristani says, but he refused. "At a personal level, I have forgotten and forgiven. I don't want him to be tried for what he has done to me personally." Dr Shahristani holds a doctorate in nuclear chemistry from the University of Toronto. He knew Saddam in the 1970s, when Saddam was vice-president of Iraq and head of the country's Atomic Energy Organisation, which Dr Shahristani worked for.
When Saddam seized power in 1979, he made Dr Shahristani his chief scientific adviser. Five months later, the secret police arrested Dr Shahristani in his office. His sin: refusing to accept the diversion of Iraq's nuclear power programme to military uses, and criticising the mass arrests and executions of his fellow Iraqi Shia after the Islamic revolution in Iran.
Dr Shahristani was tortured for 22 days, much of which he spent hanging from his hands, which were tied behind his back. He was beaten, and poked with electric cattle prods. But because Saddam wanted to preserve him for the nuclear programme, Dr Shahristani was spared the treatment endured by others: branding on the back and stomach with electric irons; holes drilled into the bones; parts of the body dissolved in sulphuric acid.
continued... The Irish Times