Beliefnet
Dr. Orlando Tizon, himself a torture survivor, is the Assistant Director of the Washington, D.C.-based Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International.

What is your response to the information that authorities are probably usingtorture on 9/11 suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?

We oppose his torture, just as we would oppose the torture of an American soldier or official who fell into the hands ofenemies of the United States. Under no circumstance whatever should torturebe allowed. The United Nations Convention against Torture (read it), which was adopted in 1986 and signed by the U.S. and more than a hundred nations, states: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war,internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

We realizethese are difficult times, buteven if the man was responsible for the acts of which he is accused, it isnot a justification fortorture. Mohammed should be brought totrial in accordance with international law. The Convention against Torturealso expressly prohibits sending a person to another country for torture andinterrogation ("rendition").

How would you respond to those who say it would be better for this one man to suffer physical pain than forthousands of people to be killed by future terrorist attacks he might be involved in?He still has basic human rights. If youmake exceptions in even a few cases, the exceptions tend to spread. When do you stop? Mr. Marcos of the Philippines used the excuse of popular unrest to declare martial law in 1972 and institutionalize the practice of torture there causing the torture, maiming, and execution of thousands of Filipinos.If torture is not a legitimate option, how do we get theinformation? Suppose Mohammed knows a small bomb will be planted somewhere in California in two months. Some say we need to get that information from him no matter what it takes.Torture is not the answer to this problem. I myself was tortured [in thePhilippines], in part so that mytorturers could get information. And it really didn't work. I just made upstories. Authorities often admitthat the information gained via torture is unreliable.Torture is being practiced in 150 countries, including countries who signedthe United Nations Convention Against Torture, which also preventsextradition to countries where torture is used. Yet torture is beingsubcontracted out from ostensibly anti-torture countries to ones where ithappens.Everyone's afraid after 9/11. People think rules should be bent--that eventhings like United Nations rulingsare perhaps not as applicable now that terrorism is such a threat. How wouldyou answer this?These are very difficult, troubling times. But we can't turn our backs oninternational law and on humanrights. Torture is terrorism, and we can't practice torture to fightterrorism. We may win one battle, but wewon't win the war. Because it would mean adopting the same tactics as terrorists?Yes. For instance, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who became binLadin's deputy and a leading ideologue of al-Qaeda,was jailed in an Egyptian prison for three years and beaten frequently. Thetraumatic experiences in prison transformed him from a relative moderate inthe Islamist underground into a violentextremist. Islamists tell their followers that the practice of torturemeans that a regime has lost its legitimacy and deserves to be destroyed.

So in the end, we may gainsmall concessions through torture, but we won't win the war on terrorism.We lose our credibility and moral leadership before the internationalcommunity. We also erode the foundations of international law, human rights, and democracy.

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