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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

by Luke Hansen, SJ


March 24, 2009


In her theological and moral reflection, Maryann Cusimano Love (“Accounting for Torture,” 3/30) has “hit the mark.” We are disciples of a tortured God, and this means that we have strong moral obligations to never torture, to investigate and prosecute such violations, and to stand in solidarity with torture victims.

However, she assumes too easily that President Obama has returned us to full compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Several realities challenge this assumption. President Obama decided not to extend habeas rights to detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, so over 600 men continue to be held there illegally without charges or trial. At Guantánamo, instead of allowing independent human rights organizations to review conditions and the treatment of prisoners, President Obama curiously assigned this task to the Department of Defense—the department responsible for operating the facility. Should we trust the architects and perpetrators of torture to investigate themselves? And finally, the illegal and immoral practice of force-feeding continues under the Obama administration. Currently, there are at least 30 hunger striking prisoners at Guantánamo, 25 of which are being force-fed—a practice that “definitely amounted to torture” when reviewed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2006.

One of these torture victims is Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair, a Saudi Arabian national who enters his eighth year at Guantánamo despite being cleared for release by the U.S. government in December 2008. In 2005, Zuhair began a hunger strike (that continues today) to protest his indefinite detention without charges or trial. As a result of being force-fed, Zuhair has experienced intense stomach pain, repeated vomiting, and the related side effect of chronic malnutrition. Lasting wounds have been inflicted on Ahmed Zuhair’s humanity. As disciples of a tortured God, how are we called to respond to this? Will our debates about accountability continue to exclusively focus on past abuses, national reputation and policy, or will we also address these present realities—with a special attentiveness to the victims’ stories and their demand for justice?

1 comment:

  1. Published, in part, in the April 20-27 issue of America magazine.