Gonzales’ nomination is a call to action

We must push for an inde-pendent investigation of human-rights abuses and press for policy changes.

The recent nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales for attorney general, and a Washington Post article that came out Friday describing new abuse cases that have surfaced at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, makes it increasingly important for the public and influential political figures from the United States to push for an independent commission investigating detainee abuse.

We must also make a connection to these types of practices that are occurring locally.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been at least 37 reported detainee deaths – 10 of which are suspected criminal killings of detainees by U.S. interrogators or soldiers.

The use of torture and other forms of ill treatment, such as “stress and duress” techniques on behalf of U.S. soldiers, at these facilities are prohibited under international and U.S. law under all circumstances and without exception.

Although the United States has argued that the Geneva Conventions do not apply in this rare circumstance, even the 9-11 Commission agreed the minimum standards of the Geneva Conventions are “generally accepted throughout the world as customary international law” and are “commonly accepted as basic standards for humane treatment.”

Regardless of government interpretations and selective applications of the Geneva Conventions, the use of torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment are also absolutely prohibited under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the United States ratified June 4, 1994.

Current investigations, carried out by the Department of Defense, will be unable to fully and impartially pursue abuse allegations, especially because top U.S. officials might have ordered, condoned or ignored the torture of detainees. Only an independent 9-11-style commission will fully reveal our treatment of detainees.

Thus, the United States should provide a full account of interrogation practices, including all records and documents relating to the most recent violations and past allegations of abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, the United States and other countries where individuals have been sent.

The additional evidence of officers at Guantanamo Bay involved in torturing detainees further pushes our country into the ranks of those who commit atrocious human rights abuses.

The allegations also show that extensive human rights abuses against “enemy combatants” are not the work of a few rotten eggs and are rather a result of systematic policy.

Especially in light of the similarities of abuse that have occurred over all sites – hanging detainees by cell doors, pouring water on them, writing on detainees’ bodies, stripping detainees naked, hooding and other practices. These actions were unlikely to be reproduced in multiple locations on their own.

These practices are not only limited to detainees suspected of terrorism but also reflect our current immigration laws and detention practices.

A Minnesota Public Radio report found domestic immigrants are being detained for what often amounts to years, with little access to counsel, and some have experienced the same forms of torture used against “enemy combatants,” such as the use of dogs and threats.

The change in Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations, influenced by the Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996, and fears produced by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have caused the United States to expand what it defines as an aggravated felony and, thus, how many immigrants are detained and often deported.

The domestic detention of immigrants and our international practices have caused our nation to be viewed as discriminatory and, at times, tyrannical. Similar to the Japanese internment camps, both have been created out of the increased power of the executive branch in a culture of fear. In order to create effective policy, we thus must not separate these two issues into separate categories.

The events that occurred in Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities, and our egregious detention of immigrant communities here in the United States, were not discussed throughout the presidential debates.

Now that we have an elected president, we must advocate for an independent commission to investigate charges internationally and press for policy change here at home. Only then will we restore the credibility of the United States as a human rights advocate.

Laura Mapp is a University graduate student. Please send comments to [email protected]