Jack Straw, Condoleeza Rice and the ‘Rusty’ Geneva Conventions

Jack Straw, interviewed with Condoleeza Rice by Jonathan Dimbleby on ITV, claimed the Geneva Conventions are “rusty”(1).

This echoes the Gonzales memo which said the conventions were “quaint”. This was the first step on the Bush administration’s road to a policy of torture of which Abu Ghraib was only the tip of the growing iceberg.

As Human Rights Watch Annual Report 2006 puts it “the abuse at Abu Ghraib paralleled similar if not worse abuse in Afghanistan, Guantánamo, elsewhere in Iraq, and in the chain of secret detention facilities where the U.S. government holds its “high value” detainees…”(2) .

Condoleeza Rice claims the Bush administration doesn't tolerate torture and respects international law. (3)

Amnesty International on the other hand says

“The US government, while publicly condemning torture, has authorized "coercive" techniques that amount to torture or are cruel, inhuman or degrading. The techniques are illegal. Always. The USA’s conduct …giving comfort to those who torture and contradicting the very values the "war on terror" is supposed to defend”(4).

Human Rights Watch notes that

“International human rights law contains no more basic prohibition than the absolute, unconditional ban on torture and ..cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”

Condoleeza Rice told David Dimblebee “I…think you will find that when the ICRC has questions, we try to give them answers.”.(5)

An International Committee of the Red Cross update of December 2005 says “Beyond Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, the ICRC is concerned about the fate of an unknown number of people detained at undisclosed locations. For the ICRC, obtaining information on these detainees and access to them is a priority”.(6)

Human Rights Watch annual report 2006 says:

“New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy”.(7).

Another HRW report says

“U.S. Army troops subjected Iraqi detainees to severe beatings and other torture at a base in central Iraq from 2003 through 2004, often under orders or with the approval of superior officers”(8).

Captain Ian Fishback of the 82nd US Airborne wrote to Senator John McCain detailing torture by the unit – including breaking prisoners arms and legs with baseball bats – in Afghanistan and Iraq.(9) He was effectively arrested by the Pentagon.(10)

US Military Intelligence Sergeant Samuel Provance who served at Abu Ghraib reported to investigating officers that torture wasn’t restricted to a few individuals (11).He has also been punished by his superiors.(12)

Unlike the Bush administration and the Blair government none of these organisations or individuals have a history of relying on shoddy sources or of deliberately distorting the facts.

The Geneva Conventions aren’t rusty. What's rusty are Mr. Straw and Ms. Rice's grasp of the truth, international law, human rights and any kind of basic morality or humanity.

When the WMD story finally had to be abandoned Mr. Blair took up the ‘we had to stop the torture by the dictator’ line instead. How can he or Jack Straw expect anyone to listen to that justification when allied to an administration in Washington which is blatantly organising torture worldwide?


(1) = US State Department Press Release 2 Apr 2006, ‘Interview With British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the Jonathan Dimbleby Programme ITV1’, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/63993.htm

(2) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 - ‘Torture and Inhumane Treatment: A Deliberate U.S. Policy’ - http://hrw.org/wr2k6/introduction/2.htm#_Toc121910421

(3) = US State Department Press Release 31 March 2006 ‘Remarks at BBC Today-Chatham House Lecture’ , http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/63969.htm

(4) = Amnesty International 1 Nov 2005 ‘TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT IN THE ‘WAR ON TERROR’’, http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engact400142005

(5) = US State Department Press Release 2 Apr 2006, ‘Interview With British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on the Jonathan Dimbleby Programme ITV1’, http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2006/63993.htm

(6) = ICRC Operational update 12-12-2005 ,‘ US detention related to the events of 11 September 2001 and its aftermath – the role of the ICRC’, http://www.icrc.org/Web/Eng/siteeng0.nsf/iwpList454/85C5BCF85E7A57A4C12570D5002E6889

(7) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2006, ‘U.S. Policy of Abuse Undermines Rights Worldwide’, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/01/13/global12428.htm

(8) = Human Rights Watch 24 Sep 2005, ‘New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops’, http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/09/25/usint11776.htm

(9) = Washington Post Wednesday, September 28, 2005; A21,‘ A Matter of Honor’, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/27/AR2005092701527_pf.html

(10) = Sunday Times Review 05 Oct 2005, ‘Andrew Sullivan: How America tiptoed into the torture chamber’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-1806906,00.html

(11) = ABC News 18 May 2004,‘Intel Staffer Cites Abu Ghraib Cover-Up’, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=131658&page=1 and http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/print?id=131658

(12) = ABC News 21 May 2004, ‘Military Punishes Abu Ghraib Key Witness’, http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=131659&page=1 and http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/print?id=131659

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