Sexual Assault at Abu Ghraib and Privacy Rights

Recent updates about the photos taken at Abu Ghraib (and being withheld by President Obama) including sexual assault of the detainees is incredibly upsetting, infuriating and fills me with deep shame for being a citizen of a nation whose (previous) administration sanctioned this kind of inhumanity and violence. And these truths are ones that I along with so many others feel must be exposed. Author Tara McKelvey, whose book has accounts from female prisoners of Abu Ghraib, takes on the issue at TAPPED, saying that without the photos it’s almost as if the crimes didn’t exist:

While reporting my book, Monstering, I heard about an interpreter who had worked at the prison and allegedly raped a 14-year-old boy, and that there was a video or a photograph of the crime that had been recorded by a female soldier. (It wasn’t Lynndie England — I asked her about it.) Military investigators looked into the alleged crime against the boy – but half-heartedly — and the investigation was eventually dropped. Since there was no photo or video that had been released to the public, it was not a priority.

At the same time, Mark Goldberg at UN Dispatch notes that not a lot of folks are talking in depth about the privacy rights of the detainees who were so brutally assaulted:

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for refocusing “public attention on the torture, humiliation and abuse of prisoners sanctioned by senior Bush administration officials” as Daphne Evitar says. But scanning memeorandum, no one seems to be balancing the rights of victims of sexual abuse with the need to air the previous administration’s dirty laundry. (Emphasis mine)

It’s so difficult to decide what’s “right” in this situation as so many of us are advocates for survivors’ rights but also feel that openness is the only way to wake Americans up to the realities of our Iraq policies. I have to say that amidst our horror of these atrocities, my gut feels it would be deeply problematic to ignore the rights of the individuals that these atrocities were perpetrated against.
After everything they have endured, shouldn’t detainees be able to decide whether these pictures go public or not? If their privacy rights were violated by these photos being released “for the good of the country,” aren’t we relying under the same argument pro-torture folks might make for committing these crimes against them?

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