Artists speak out against music torture on detainees

A coalition of musicians announced on October 20 that they are formally protesting the use of loud music as an interrogation technique, and joining the National Campaign to Close Guantánamo in an attempt to draw more attention and scrutiny to the activities in the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and other detention sites worldwide. NYU School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) currently represents two former detainees who are charging that deafening loud music was used against them while they were held in secret prisons run by the C.I.A. Jayne Huckerby, adjunct faculty professor and research director at CHRGJ says that music has been used "to humiliate, terrify, punish, disorient and deprive detainees of sleep, in violation of international law."

“There is abundant evidence that the prolonged use of loud music was an intrinsic part of the U.S. torture arsenal, from Guantánamo to Iraq to the C.I.A.’s ‘black sites’ around the globe,” says Huckerby. One of the two detainees represented by CHRGJ, Mohamed Bashmilah, has said that “excruciatingly loud western rap and Arabic music” and “deafening music” were used during his detention.

The National Campaign said in a press release that the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that bans the use of loud music as torture goes largely unenforced.

R.E.M., Pearl Jam, and the Roots are among the many artists supporting the campaign’s call for the declassification of secret government records pertaining to how music was utilized as an interrogation device. The National Security Archive, which is filing a series of Freedom of Information Act requests on behalf of the National Campaign, says tracks by AC/DC, Britney Spears, the Bee Gees and Marilyn Manson were used at Guantánamo.

“We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice—to now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific,” R.E.M. said in a statement. “It’s anti-American, period.”

BBC News reports that Major Diana Haynie, a spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Guantánamo, said loud music has not been used with detainees since the fall of 2003. According to the New York Times, a White House spokesman says that the use of loud music in interrogations was done away with after President Obama’s inauguration. But a declassified C.I.A. document obtained by CHRGJ, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Amnesty International USA, describes loud music and white noise as a ‘standard’ condition of C.I.A. detention in December 2005.

Posted on October 29, 2009

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