Pentagon has declassified Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's memorandum on tactics of interrogating detainees in Guantanamo. The memorandum includes the letter of instruction of October 2002, where the minister allowed using the so-called submergence technique when interrogating a person suspected of involvement in the September 11 terrorist act. What Pentagon bureaucrats call the submergence technique is, of course, a usual torture.
At a time of scandals around the Iraqi prison of Abu Graib and at the heat of the US election campaign Rumsfeld shoulders responsibility, trying to help both his subordinates and his president. But the question remains. Are tortures permissible in democratic countries?
Today the world is living in fear. Despite all efforts of the anti-terrorist coalition, which also includes Russia, the results of the confrontation are disappointing. According to the US State Department, the number of terrorist attacks in the world grew from 198 in 2002 to 208 in 2003. Judging by the violent start of this year, its results will be even sadder. Russia is just recovering from the tragedy in Ingushetia. The terrorist attack on this tiny republic bordering on Chechnya killed about 100 people, according to the latest estimates. They were killed right in the city streets near their houses.
How should fight against international terrorism and its barbarianism look in practice? One of the most difficult questions actively debated by human rights campaigners and special services is what has to be done if they need to make a terrorist talk who has planted a bomb in a school. Or whether they can shoot down a civil plane that terrorists are flying towards a nuclear facility. Such questions are numerous and each of them is of inhuman difficulty.
The war on terror is unlikely to end tomorrow, if ever, so the civilized world has to quickly determine acceptable means of self-defenseboth legally and internationally. Otherwise there will be neither stopping tortures nor saving schools. Two years ago the USA decided to break the humanitarian deadlock on their own, passing via the Security Council a resolution that for two years freed US soldiers from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which hears cases of military crime. Impressed by the September 11th tragedy, the UN Security Council did not oppose the resolution. Meanwhile, the Abu Graib scandal has shown that this pardon of crime does not find support even in the American society. No wonder that now, two years later, the US representatives did not venture to raise the issue of extending the resolution. As Kofi Annan put it, this resolution "produced a wrong signal in general, and all the more so now".
But what is the right signal? The international community cannot escape this question. International terrorism is a challenge of the new time, which means that the world has to work out basic approaches to these problems, including humanitarian ones.
Definitely, it is hard to combine almost incompatible things, all the more so that the issue is not a debate between rights advocates and special services, but a debate deep in one's heart.