Outrage at Soldier Who "Water-boarded" His 4-Year-Old Daughter

>> Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Chilling. Andrew Sullivan initially reported that the US media was completely ignoring this story, but that's not true now. Quite a number of commentators have expressed outrage at the torture of a child, and the serviceman in question, Joshua Tabor, has been arrested.

It's a horrible way to treat a child. Interesting that this particular incident is being singled out for national attention given the routine violence and abuse that children experience in their homes (to say nothing of schools) in this country. You wouldn't see most child abusers accused of "torturing" their children however, so it's interesting to see how the popular and correct association of water-boarding with torture in a CIA or military context is now leading to accusations that the father has "tortured" his child.

I think this is actually quite a reasonable position to take in a normative sense when referring to a great deal of physical punishment inflicted on minors in this country, but it's worth pointing out that strictly speaking, such acts are not torture in the legal sense, which only occurs at the hands of agents of the state. According to the Convention Against Torture, torture is:

For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court has a rather less limited definition that does not stress the state and refers instead to the infliction of pain on a person "under the control of the accused"; but given that this provision in Article 7 is an addendum to the definition of "crimes against humanity," which is constituted by widespread or systematic attacks on civilians, it's very unlikely that it could be said to apply to a case of family violence.


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