Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Schrödinger's cat-o-nine tails

The Los Angeles Times reports that US forces in Iraq refused to allow UN torture inspectors to enter detention facilities that they run, even though they had come to verify what they called "credible reports" that conditions were improving.

Manfred Nowak (pictured) works for the UN as an independent observer on torture and had agreement from the Iraqi regime that he could come to Iraq this year to inspect institutions of detention. The British allowed Manfred entry to the facilities that they run in the South but the American forces were less pleased to see the Austrian human rights expert.

Manfred claims that "U.S. officials told him that American-run prisons in Iraq were not subject to international human rights law because of the armed conflict, and as such were outside his area of responsibility." So, not simply that they didn't have to let him in but that they were not obliged to observe the protections human rights laws give detainees.

In 2006 Manfred had observed that the torture situation in Iraq was worse than it had been under Saddam. The catalogue of horrors he had observed or had evidence for is truly sickening - although feel free to read the report if you must.

Manfred must have been pleased to hear reports that the US had improved their treatment of prisoners in the last two years, but what are we to make of the fact that they are unwilling to cooperate with the simplest of requests made by a UN official? Perhaps this is like Schrödinger's cat, if we cannot see the abuses take place maybe they do not occur at all. This is the whole basis on which CNN news reporting is founded surely.

Hat tip IOF

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