Yesterday whilst visiting family I watched the film ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, which narrates the capture and killing of the most wanted terrorist at the time, Osama Bin Laden, by American troupes. Whilst overall it was a well produced film, the first 10-15 minutes of the film was painful to watch; it made me extremely uncomfortable and angry because it went against everything I have learnt about international human rights law. While I admire the creators of this film, and respect the real life heroes who were brave enough to venture this dangerous operation, and most of all the woman who was the mastermind of the operation, I would like to present my criticism about what I learned from the first few scenes of the film.
It is important to keep in mind that according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), torture is an absolute prohibition… Absolute in the sense that countries that have signed in agreement with the UDHR cannot derogate from this prohibition. However, this film stares us in the face and shows us everything that is not right. The first few scenes of the film shows US intelligent agents torturing a suspected terrorist for information about the whereabouts of Bin Laden’s most trusted messenger. Tactics that were used included sleep deprivation – he was kept awake for 96 hours with loud heavy metal music playing in a small room where he was hung from his two hands – and pouring water on his face which was covered by a towel, almost choking him. In the beginning of the movie it stated ‘based on first hand accounts of actual events’… Then what this film is telling us is that the United States is involved in activities of torture. This is wrong on so many levels. Ironically, in a later scene of the film, the television is on in the background with President Obama stating “America does not torture”.
People may argue that these people who are being tortured are terrorists and that they deserve this. But no one deserves torture, it is an absolute NO! Another argument is that the reason they are tortured is to get important information that can save the lives of many others. However, is there not another way of getting information? A more humanly respectable way? However, the question remains, will these radicals who are being tortured and yet refuses to give information, give out information when using other, less painful means? If torture was not used will they have been able to find Osama Bin Laden? Whilst I believe that torture, by all means, needs to remain an absolute prohibition, it is still a grey area, that needs a lot of attention.