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Tortured Explanations | Village Voice


Tortured Explanations


At this point just about everyone knows that while the U.S. itself doesn’t officially sanction torture, it is more than ready to ship suspects out to other countries whose governments do engage in the practice. Amnesty International now presents a report on how U.S. companies are cashing in on the torture business. Since 9-11, the U.S. is alleged to have sent prisoners to Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, and Thailand, while at the same time our companies have been selling torture equipment to them. “The total value of U.S. exports of electroshock weapons was $14.7 million in 2002, and exports of restraints totaled $4.4 million in the same period,” Amnesty’s report says. “The Commerce and State departments approved these sales, permitting 45 countries to purchase electroshock technology, including 19 that had been cited for the use of such weapons to inflict torture since 1990.” Around the world, there are some 856 companies in 47 countries engaged in the manufacture and marketing of electroshock technology, restraints, and chemical irritants that are used in torture, the report adds.

Just in 2002, U.S. companies sold nine tons of Smith & Wesson leg irons to Saudi Arabia, according to Amnesty International. Former prisoners in Saudi Arabia have said their restraints were stamped with the Smith & Wesson brand. Phil Lomax, a U.K. national who was held for 17 days in 1999 in Riyadh—not at the Baker Botts offices there but at Malaz prison—recounted in a 2000 report by the rights group, “When[ever] we were taken out of the cell, we were shackled and handcuffed. The shackles were very painful. They were made of steel . . . like a handcuff ring. The handcuffs were made in the U.S.A.”

In 2001, the U.S. OK’d three sales of electroshock weapons to Turkey; Amnesty’s report noted that this was the same country where, around that time, a 17-year-old schoolgirl, detained for distributing leaflets calling for Kurdish education, had been seized, stripped, threatened with rape, and then tortured with shocks to her feet, legs, and stomach.

Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel

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