Wednesday, September 30, 2009

American citizen tortured by Burma, and his government is speechless

Amnesty International reports "Trusted sources have reported to Amnesty international that male [American] activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin [also known as Nyi Nyi Aung] was tortured and suffered other ill-treatment whilst in detention in Insein Prison, Yangon, Myanmar’s main city. He was arrested in Yangon on 3 September. He has been denied medical treatment for the injuries he sustained from the torture he endured during interrogation. There are grave concerns about his health."

An American citizen is tortured, and his government is speechless. Has this ever happened before?  Johnathan Hulland, writing in the Huff Post, asks "why isn't there more outrage and action at this American's appalling treatment by a ruthless dictatorship? One answer is that America's recent flirtation with torture has inured it to the torture of Americans themselves, but I can't and don't want to believe this."

But it has been more than a mere "flirtation." It was US government policy.  And it remains US policy to protect those who have ordered torture.  And although Obama has issued a directive prohibiting torture, the new American president refuses to accord persons suspected of being terrorists with their rights under the law. 

It's conceivable that the US political establishment -- Republicans and Democrats -- don't want to think about the torture of an American citizen at this time.  According to Amnesty International:
The torture and ill-treatment that Kyaw Zaw Lwin suffered in detention included beating and kicking. He was deprived of food for seven days and moved between different interrogation centres. He was not allowed to sleep at night and was kept awake during interrogation by the authorities. Details of the charges against him are not known.
Sound familiar?    "Beating and kicking,"  "not allowed to sleep at night," "kept awake during interrogation."   These are all methods of torture, prohibited under international law.    But according to the way US Attorney General Eric Holder's prosecutions are supposed to proceed, nobody in a position of authority within the US government is likely to be held accountable for having ordered these very abuses against hundreds of Arab and Afghan prisoners of the US.  

Myanmar might claim that this American citizen is a "terrorist" and, following American precedent, take away any number of his rights under law.   Myanmar might  point to precedents set by the government of the United States -- including President Obama. 

The plight of Kyaw Zaw Lwin exposes the extent to which the United States has undermined the rights of   every American -- the safety of every American.   Might this be what the War on Terror has come to, that the American government finds itself speechless when a brutal regime imprisons and tortures an American?

If the American government has little to say at a time like this, maybe it simply does not want Americans to hear how badly it has let them down.

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