US-Justizministerium spinnt sich neue Folterdefinition zurecht

--- Das neue Jahr fängt ja gut an: Das US-Justizministerium hat am Donnerstag ohne weiteren Kommentar und unter einer kryptischen Bezeichnung ein Schreiben auf seine Website gestellt, in dem der stellvertretende US-Justizminister plötzlich den Einsatz von Folter beim Ausquetschen von Gefangenen enger definiert (als eingescanntes und daher entsprechend aufgeblasenes PDF dazu auch noch). Das Manöver ist überaus durchsichtig, weil schon in Bälde der von Bush als neuer US-Justizminister auserkorene Alberto Gonzales noch einige Befragungen durch den Senat anstehen. Der Hispanier hatte sich zuvor recht weit für den Einsatz von Folter aus dem Fenster gelehnt. Die New York Times schreibt zu dem Manöver heute: The new memorandum, first reported in The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, largely dismisses the August 2002 definition, especially the part that asserted that mistreatment rose to the level of torture only if it produced severe pain equivalent to that associated with organ failure or death. "Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms," said the new memorandum written by Daniel Levin, the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, which had produced the earlier definition. Mr. Gonzales, who will go before the Senate committee for confirmation hearings, served as a supervisor and coordinator inside the administration as lawyers drafted new approaches on the limits of coercive techniques in interrogations and the scope of the president's authority in fighting a war against terrorists. A memorandum in January 2002 to President Bush that Mr. Gonzales signed sided with the Justice Department in asserting that the Geneva Conventions did not bind the United States in its treatment of detainees captured in the fighting in Afghanistan. The August 2002 Justice Department memorandum and a later memorandum from an administration legal task force with similar conclusions were widely denounced in Congress and by human rights groups as cornerstones in the approach to detainees that led to abuses at Abu Ghraib and at the detention center in Guantánamo. The political effect of the new memorandum on Mr. Gonzales's appearance before the committee was unclear. He has been expected to assert, as he has before, that neither he nor Mr. Bush condones torture. But the change could underline what had been the undisputed policy of the administration at least until June, when officials said it was no longer applicable and would be rewritten. That position came just after the August 2002 memorandum was disclosed in published reports. Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has sued the administration over its interrogation policies, said Friday that the redefinition "makes it clear that the earlier one was not just some intellectual theorizing by some lawyers about what was possible." "It means it must have been implemented in some way," Mr. Ratner said. "It puts the burden on the administration to say what practices were actually put in place under those auspices." The International Committee of the Red Cross has said in private messages to the United States government that American personnel have engaged in torture of detainees, both in Iraq and at Guantánamo. ... David Scheffer, a senior State Department human rights official in the Clinton administration who teaches law at George Washington University, said Friday that while the Justice Department's change was commendable, it might still provide too flexible a definition of torture, leaving too many judgments in the hands of interrogators.

Update: Das amerikanische Folterunwesen hat seinen Weg inzwischen auch in Telepolis gefunden.