The movie Zero Dark Thirty, which depicts the hunt for Osama bin Laden, wrongly suggests that torture was an ugly but useful tactic in the fight against terrorism. It also falsely implies that information obtained through torture was critical to finding bin Laden. As the film-makers note, it is a fictionalized account, not a documentary. The use of torture violates US law and the country’s international legal obligations – even when “authorized” by the US government. Its use damaged the reputation of the United States and its ability to promote human rights while giving cover to abusers worldwide who use such techniques against political opponents and activists. Torture was counter-productive in the fight against terrorism, producing false and misleading information that may in fact have slowed the search for bin Laden and diverted attention from genuine security threats.
The full scope and nature of US government torture remains hidden, in part because the US has kept many details of the program secret. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in December adopted a 6,000-page classified report detailing the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, a program under which much of the torture and other ill-treatment occurred. The committee should seek – and the Obama administration should support – declassification and release of the report, both to counter misinformation about the supposed value of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to provide the public with a full accounting of past US government policy and practice.
The judicial system in Bahrain is neither independent nor fair. It is used as a tool to go after and punish dissidents. Within the last two years, Bahrain has witnessed thousands of political cases based on trumped-up charges. During the summer, political prisoners were denied air conditioning despite the unbearable heat of Bahrain. At some points, they were not allowed to shower. Sometimes they were not allowed to pray or even use the bathroom. Many of the political prisoners still suffer due to severe torture and are prevented from adequate medical care. We continue to have cases of minors under eighteen who are imprisoned and at times, tried under the internationally condemned terrorism law.