Thursday, March 19, 2015

"In Our Name": An Unexpected Intervention to End Torture

As law professors, we often repeat the same strategies again and again in our efforts to promote human rights dialogue and education: we write law review articles, blogs, op eds, amicus briefs, textbooks and sign-on letters; we organize and attend conferences; we raise issues in our teaching.  

Professor Michael Meltsner of Northeastern Law School, however, did something different.  In 2011, he wrote a play: In Our Name:  A Play of the Torture Years.   As described by the author, the play "depicts how and why the nation found itself brutally treating the men it detained—some with good reason, some with stunning caprice—after 9/11.  The play confronts the government rationalizations, the bizarre military hearings, and the willful blindness of the public to what was happening behind barbed wire."

After successful productions in Boston and New York, Professor Meltsner's work will be performed once again at 4 p.m., March 19, 2015, at Northeastern's Blackman Auditorium.  A panel discussion of the ethics of torture will follow the performance.

As an alternative to professors' "business as usual," theatre has much to recommend it.  "New Tactics for Human Rights," a program of the Center for Victims of Torture, reports that "by working through theatre, both performers and spectators can engage difficult questions in a safe space. Theatre is also an ideal instrument to give witness to human rights violations. It is also an excellent tool for education and awareness raising. Lastly, these insights can be used to advocate for policy and legislative changes."

Such creative efforts to perpetuate the dialogue about human rights and torture are particularly important given the continued detentions at Guantanamo and media blackout on conditions there. Recent reports indicate that the requests of Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, to interview detainees have been denied.  And the U.S. government has discontinued reporting on hunger strikes and forced feedings at the facility.  Without new "news," there's a danger that indefinite detentions and the abuses that go along with them, will become simply part of everyday background noise.    

In Our Name has sparked, well yes, more law review articles.  But more importantly, by employing an unexpected strategy, it breathes new life into the movement to end these abuses.    

 

 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/human_rights/2015/03/in-our-name-an-unexpected-intervention-to-end-torture.html

CAT, Convention Against Torture, War | Permalink

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