FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The US / Russia Torture War

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

“The pot calls the kettle black.”

–Cervantes, Don Quixote de la Mancha

The magic number is 18.  That is the number each country has selected to express its disapproval of the actions of the other.   Vladimir Putin said of the United States’ action:  “This, of course, poisons our relationship with the United States.”  What he’s talking about is the infamous case of Sergei Magnitsky and the United States’ response to his imprisonment and death.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian accountant and auditor who, while working at the Moscow law firm of Firestone Duncan, was investigating an alleged $230 million tax fraud in Russia that implicated tax officials and police officers.  In response to his investigation Sergei was arrested in November 2008 because of allegations that he himself had colluded with a client of the firm to commit tax fraud.   Under Russian law he could be held for one year without facing trial and on November 16, 2009, eight days short of one year, he died in prison. Reports suggest that during his incarceration he was placed in increasingly small spaces of confinement, denied medical care and denied contact with family members. Suffering from untreated pancreitis he ultimately died because of acute heart failure and toxic shock. The United States Congress was outraged by Mr. Magnitsky’s treatment.

On June 12, 2012, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed what was called in part the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012” and on December 14, 2012, it was signed by President Obama.  It had nothing to do with the rule of law as it pertained to the prisoners indefinitely detained in Guantanamo, the torturing of prisoners in U.S. custody, nor did it have anything to do with the fact that Mr. Magnitsky was held in prison for 8 days less than one year without being brought to trial.  Its stated purpose was simply to punish 18 Russian officials the Congress thought were responsible for Mr. Magnitsky’s treatment.  It prohibited them from entering the United States and froze their banking assets within the United States.

In response to the Magnitsky act, Russia took a number of steps, the most recent of which was to ban 18 Americans from entering Russia.  Those banned by the Russians include Americans the Russians believe were involved in human rights violations and others who have violated the “human rights and freedoms of Russian citizens abroad” by prosecuting those citizens.  The Russians are supported in their belief that the United States was involved in human rights violations by the Constitution Project Study that was released on April 16, 2013.

In the Study’s opening statement it says “[T]he most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture. . . . [T]his conclusion is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture in many contexts, notable, historical and legal.”

Two people included in the Russian ban are John Yoo who was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S.  Department of Justice who drafted memoranda justifying torture. Another is David Addington, legal counsel and chief of staff to then vice-president, Dick Cheney.  He, too, supported  enhanced interrogation techniques that the Study concluded were torture. The Russians may have thought those people were as bad as Mr. Magnitsky’s handlers.  They may also have thought that keeping Mr. Magnitsky in jail for less than a year was much less worse than what the U.S. has done to prisoners at Guantanamo.  If they thought that, they were right.

On April 15, 2013 an op-ed piece written by Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, a Guantanamo detainee, was published in the New York Times describing his treatment.  Like Mr. Magnitsky, Samir  has been neither charged with a crime nor tried. Unlike Mr. Magnitsky, he was not entitled to be released after being imprisoned for one year.  He has been at Guantanamo  for 11 years and 3 months and there is no end in sight.

Unlike Mr. Magnitsky he has not been refused appropriate medical care.  Indeed, on March 15, 2013 he was in the prison hospital because he was ill.  Prior to being admitted to the hospital and up to the present, he was on a hunger strike. The hospital personnel did not think that a hunger strike was good for him.  In response to his refusal to eat while in the hospital “eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed.  They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand.  I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed.  During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet.  They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary.  I was not even permitted to pray.  . . . I am still being force-fed.  Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell.  My arms, legs and head are strapped down.  I never know when they will come. . . . ”

The Russians do not understand that by torturing people and detaining people indefinitely our government believes it is doing good things because it is protecting the world from bad things except, of course, the bad things it is doing.

If the Russians find that hard to understand, they are not alone.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail