Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Torture in the News

Top Story

From the "Right. Let's see how utterly banal we can make torture" Department.
Tristar, an Australian car parts manufacturer, is in hot water. Seems that Tristar is scaling back operations, and has reduced its number of workers from 350 to 35. These 35 are long-standing employees, and their severance and redundancy packages run into the millions. So Tristar has kept them on the payroll to save itself a bundle until their contract expires. Only problem is that there's no work left for the guys to do. So they show up at the Tristar factory each day, punch in, and sit around playing cards or reading newspapers until it's time to knock off.
The 35 are suing Tristar, claiming that the boredom they're enduring on the job is "mental torture" and "their version of Guantanamo Bay." A representative of the 35 notes that they're left "essentially undirected and idle" and "left to amuse themselves," and concludes that this is "harsh treatment."
Tristar is obviously trying to screw the employees out of their rightful severance packages. It's also obvious that meaningless, degrading, and uncreative work--the kind most workers endure, unfortunately--is psychologically and morally bad. But to compare getting paid for sitting around and playing cards with torture is an outrageous trivialization of what torture is and does to its victims. It's worse than just plain stupid (not to mention mawkishly self-pitying). It's downright dangerous.
Likening the unpleasantries in our lives to torture has become popular in the last three or four years. But such comparisons normalize torture by trivializing it, and they condition us to suppose that tortured prisoners around the world are really only enduring inconvenient but and minor and transitory psychological and physical pain. And once we think of torture in this way, it's very easy for us to allow it as an "interrogatory technique." The Maiden's hunch is that most people who condone torture don't do so because they're thugs or idiots. They do so because they misunderstand what torture really is.

Other News

Hamas & Torture. The "Popular Committee," a Fatah organization formerly known as the "Popular Resistance Committee," has accused Hamas of abducting and torturing Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip. In the meantime, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights alleges that Hamas brutally tortured to death 45 -year old Waleed Abu Dalfa. Khalil Salman Abu Dalfa, Waleed's 41-year old brother, was also tortured. The torture was allegedly perfomed by the Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas infamous for its willingness to torture detainees.

Blinded & Muted. In July 2003, Shahin Portofeh sewed shut his lips and eyes to protest the plans of the UK to deport him back to his native Iran. Portofeh, a gay man, feared what awaited him if returned to Iran. But returned he was, and this BBC story is the first of a three-part series recounting his torture at the hands of Iranian jailers. Caution: not for the squeamish.

Nepal & Torture. The Collective Campaign for Peace is lobbying the Nepalese government to sign on to the International Criminal Court charter. The ICC defines torture as a crime against humanity. Torture is on the rise in Nepal, with 1,300 new cases reported since last April, when democracy was supposedly restored there.