Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Amnesty's waterboarding video: warning - shocking

Amnesty International has today (22 April) launched a hard-hitting new film about “waterboarding”, the practice of torturing prisoners by partially drowning them.

Amnesty’s film, called “Stuff Of Life”, is set to be one of the strongest campaign films ever seen by cinema-goers when the film is shown from early May. What adds to the Stuff Of Life’s “shock value” is that it is effectively “disguised” as a bottled water or vodka advert, filmed in the “glossy” style usually seen in luxury consumer goods advertising.

The short film, which launches online today (at www.unsubscribe-me.org) and will be seen on some 50 UK cinema screens from 9 May, portrays a torture technique that is currently the subject of intense controversy in the United States, where CIA officials have recently admitted that their operatives have waterboarded “war on terror” prisoners in secret interrogations.

The waterboarding admissions, alongside revelations that videotapes of CIA interrogations have been destroyed, have fuelled intense debate about US treatment of prisoners in fighting terrorism. However, despite growing concern about waterboarding and other abusive practices, US President George Bush recently vetoed a bill that would have outlawed such so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Our film shows you what the CIA doesn’t want you to see - the disgusting reality of half-drowning a person then calling it ‘enhanced interrogation’.

“For a few seconds our film-makers did this for real - they poured water up the nose and into the mouth of someone who was pinned down with his head tilted back. Even for those few seconds, it’s horrifying to watch - the reality, in a secret prison with no-one to stop it, is much, much worse.

“Everyone who sees this terrifying film ought to take action to stop it happening in the real world - they should support our ‘Unsubscribe’ campaign.”

Malcolm Nance, a US security expert familiar with waterboarding as a counter-insurgency training technique, said:

“Having trained American operatives to withstand waterboarding, I can assure you that this truly scary film is right on the money - this is what it’s like.

“Let’s not mince words - waterboarding is out and out torture, and I’m deeply ashamed that President Bush has authorised its use and dragged the USA’s reputation into the mud.”

The film is part of the organisation’s “Unsubscribe” campaign, mobilising support for human rights in the “war on terror”. It comes after a similarly powerful film about “stress and duress” torture called “Waiting For The Guards”, released in October. Both films were the joint work of media agency Drugstore and acclaimed film-makers Marc Hawker and Ishbel Whitaker (DarkFibre films), and both feature the performance artist Jiva Parthipan.

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Blogger Agatha said...

Kind of off topic but anyway... does anyone know where I can find information about what percentage of Amnesty's funding goes on admin costs? I was informed by someone who works there last week that 99p of every £1 goes on admin. I've been a member since 1998 so this pissed me off a bit. I'd like to know where to get the official figures, but can't find anything on their site.

April 22, 2008 12:25 pm  
Blogger STS said...

Agatha - you can't have looked very hard... it's easy to find this info on the Amnesty UK website where they publish full financial statements: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10106

In summary, to quote:
"94% of our money comes from our individual members or supporters

We spend 62% of our income directly on human rights work

We spend £8.7 million on our campaigns - our largest area of expenditure

£4.9 million goes on human rights research

Fundraising activities such as trading, raffles, appeals and events raise £3 million

We spent £2.4 million on events (including the Secret Policeman's Ball), trading and other fundraising initiatives.

9% of our money comes from legacies - people remembering us in their will

Between 2001 - 2007 our income increased by 76% to a total of £22.1 million"

April 22, 2008 2:06 pm  
Blogger Gavin Whenman said...

"The waterboarding admissions, alongside revelations that videotapes of CIA interrogations have been destroyed, have fuelled intense debate about US treatment of prisoners in fighting terrorism."

I would add to this the startling leaks of the John Yoo torture memos, which effectively defined torture out of existence: http://tinyurl.com/6wm3z , as well as the slow discovery of the extent of the extraordinary rendition programme: http://tinyurl.com/bqsfh

April 22, 2008 6:58 pm  
Blogger Vanessa said...

hi agatha

as sts mentioned you can find out how all the money is spent by just looking on the site... or at least i know the UK site has a complete breakdown

but i can assure you that we deffinately dont spend 99p of every pound on admin - thats coming from some one who volunteers full time and is only gets expenses.

hope you errm 'enjoyed'?? the film

April 22, 2008 9:18 pm  
Blogger ajhil said...

While I applaud Amnesty's efforts to publicize the evils of waterboarding, I find their "demo" unconvincing, because it doesn't conform to most descriptions of the procedure. Notably it omits the use of a cloth or other flexible material that covers the nose and mouth of the victim. In fact, simply pouring water on the victim's face will not reliably produce distress or asphyxia. In the instances when it does, the resulting aspiration of water into the respiratory system (that is, drowning) is likely to be so injurious that it defeats the purpose of the torture.
In fact, water is just a means for turning the fabric into a one-way "valve" that seals the victim's nose and mouth, making it possible to exhale, but not to inhale. This restricts air intake far more quickly and controllably and also doesn't produce drowning. I do not understand why these facts are so rarely, if ever, mentioned in discussions of waterboarding.

April 25, 2009 7:14 am  

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