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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Torture, Human Rights, and Terrorism


During the spring semester of 2007, the Center for Latin American Studies hosted an exhibit of Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib series of paintings and drawings which depict the abuses committed by U.S. soldiers at that notorious Iraqi prison. In addition to holding a public conversation with the artist, the Center also organized a series of lectures to elaborate on the themes evoked in the artworks. The essays included here were originally prepared for the panel discussion “Torture, Human Rights, and Terrorism” held on March 7, 2007. In “Absolute Power,” Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Institute and Founding Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, explores the psychology and politics of torture as a means of asserting “absolute power”—and the means by which that assertion is always frustrated. In “The Law of Torture,” Jenny Martinez, Associate Professor of Law at Stanford and Counsel to Jose Padilla in Rumsfeld vs. Padilla, explores the history of torture’s legal representation, and traces the means by which the United States, in the period since 9/11, “attempted to legalize, justify, and represent permanently in our law the practice of torture.”

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