Stealth Torture: America’s New, Discreet Method

The Muslim Observer

Stealth Torture: America’s New, Discreet Method

By Laura Fawaz, Contributing Reporter


Troy, MI–The crude behavior towards the detainees in the Abu Ghraib prisons in Iraq, at the hands of the American army, created a vast international outcry.

Attorney Shereef Akeel of Troy, MI, has been fighting for nine years to seek full and total justice for these detainee victims.  He is finally getting the trail he’s been waiting for this summer.  In doing so, he needs to go after all parties involved.  We all remember those infamous photos blasted all over the 60 Minutes special in 2004, showing the American army men and women posed with the detainees, with black bags over their faces, stacked on top of each other to make a pyramid, while in the nude.  Some photos even included army men and women smiling and posing with the abused detainees.  The hard part, going after Caci PT (Premier Technology), the company that sent these army men and women into do what they did. 

Caci PT is the civilian group that was contracted by the American government.  When Caci made an agreement to work for the American government in Iraq, they signed an agreement that coincides with international law and the Geneva Convention.  “They participated in tarnishing our country’s image and it’s important to remove that tarnish as much as possible, and part of that is to hold them accountable for their misdeeds,” Akeel said.

This disturbing behavior towards the detainees was not officially considered as torture, as there were not any physical marks on the victims.  Through this trail, Akeel and his team are bringing awareness to what this really is, stealth torture.  It’s a new form of interrogation used on detainees, especially in the Middle East, and is controversial.  According to the American Army, it is not considered as torture because it is not physical, but according to Akeel, it is much worse, is causes a great deal of psychological damage.  The most common example is when a family is detained, and the daughter is forced to strip and parade in front of her father and brother, or when a father and son and detained and they are forced to play with their genitals together. 

This is something that anyone would find disturbing, but since it is most often carried out in the Middle East, it is much worse.  Since the Arab culture and the Islamic faith is known for frowning upon open sexuality, and even talking about it, this type of torture is intended to do just that, torture.  Amnesty International created a guide in 2000 on torture worldwide, where they site common forms of psychological torture to include threats to the prisoner and to family members, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation and sensory overload (bright lights, loud noise), and sexual humiliation.

The concept of stealth torture came about with the invention of electric power generation, electric shock torture.  Several authors have explained the political side of this type of torture.  They said, “When democratic governments use torture, they are more likely to use stealth methods, as democratic governments are more sensitive to the bad effects on public opinion of torture becoming evident and documented.  With the rise of human rights monitoring, non-democratic states have begun using these types of torture methods more often as well.  Even if regimes care little about public opinion within their own countries, they are conscious of negative public opinion from the international community.”  This can be found in “Modern Torture as a Civic Maker: Solving a Global Anxiety with a New Political Technology,” 2003, and in the “Journal of Human Rights,” pages 153 – 171, both by Darius Rejali. 

The “United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment and Punishment,” describes the current legal definition of torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing.”

Attorney Dr. Alexander Zahar devoted a section titled “Torture” in the Antonio Cassesse, ed. (2009), of The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice, pages 537-8.  In it, he analyzes torture from the International Criminal Tribunal, specially focusing on the former Yugoslavia.  These cases have found that rape and sexual assault are torture, though they (the International Criminal Tribunal) also concluded that torture has come to be defined so broadly that it is now semantically equivalent to the very general notion of cruel treatment.

When the army members charged with this heinous crime were charged in court, one of the Lieutenants noted being asked numerous times by the detainees to just be killed, that dying would be better than the disgrace that they and their family members were going through.  This shows that this form of torture is known to leave the victim with psychologically damage.


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