[R-G] Robert Ménard, of Reporters without Borders, follows in Washington’s steps and legitimizes torture

Anthony Fenton fentona at shaw.ca
Sat Sep 15 22:56:52 MDT 2007

Sept. 4, 2007
Robert Ménard, of Reporters without Borders, follows in Washington’s  
steps and legitimizes torture

Salim Lamrani
Edited by Caty R.

Robert Ménard, secretary general of the Parisian organization  
Reporters without Borders (RSF) since 1985, is a professional media  
figure who claims to defend “freedom of the press” and wraps himself  
with in a humanist discourse greatly appreciated by public opinion.  
Thanks to the collusion of the media, Ménard has become an  
unavoidable figure in the world of the press.

Nonetheless, his actions don’t meet with unanimous approval. The  
flagrant lack of impartiality which RSF shows has been criticized  
many times. The French organization financed by economic and  
financial corporations as well as by the United States, as its  
secretary general has publicly admitted, has carried out media  
campaigns curiously similar to the political agenda of the White  
House. Thus RSF, with the pretext of defending freedom of the press,  
has repeatedly shown no mercy with Cuba (1), supported the coup  
d’etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in April 2002 (2),  
implicitly approved the bloody invasion of Iraq in 2003 (3) and  
legitimized the coup d’etat against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide  
in Haiti (4). Now, RSF carries out a spectacular media campaign  
against China and the Olympic Games in Beijing (5).

The ideological similarity between RSF and the Bush administration is  
evident to the extent that one questions what Robert Menard’s true  
objectives really are. The scandals of Guantánamo, Abu Graib and the  
CIA’s secret jails throughout the world have shown that U.S. troops  
don’t hesitate to use torture to obtain their goals. The entire  
international community has unanimously condemned these inhuman and  
unjustifiable methods.

In October 2006 the U.S. Congress took the first step and approved a  
law that legalizes torture, a flagrant violation of the very  
principles of democracy. The Republican majority as well as several  
elected Democrats of the House of Representatives and Senate  
authorized the use of evidence obtained under torture against the  
“illegal enemy combatant.” The text, titled “law of military  
commissions, 2006,” recognizes the existence of secret courts to  
judge any alien suspected of attacking United States interests. The  
defendant won’t have access to a lawyer or know the charges against  
him. Additionally, the evidence presented against him will remain  
secret. Or course, he will also be detained without the right to be  
brought before a judge, and all of that indefinitely. He will not be  
able to denounce the illegality of his detention or the torture he  
might have been the victim of (6).

The law also gives the U.S. president “the authority to interpret the  
meaning and the application of the Geneva conventions” which  
prohibits torture. These will not be able to be used “as a source of  
law before any court of the United States.”  Section V of the law  
stipulates, “no person may invoke the Geneva Conventions or any  
protocols thereto in any habeas corpus or other civil action or  
proceeding to which the United States, or a current or former  
officer, employee, member of the Armed Forces, or other agent of the  
United States is a party as a source of rights in any court of the  
United States or its States or territories.” Additionally, “No court,  
justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an  
application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an  
alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the  
United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or  
is awaiting such determination.” (7)

Not only is this law poisonous to freedom, essentially totalitarian,  
it represents a threat for any citizen of the world who isn’t a  
citizen of the United States, but grants complete impunity to those  
responsible for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The European  
Union and France in particular have maintained a scandalous silence  
with respect to this law. What would have happened if China, Cuba,  
Iran, Russia or Venezuela had adopted a similar law? Who can still  
speak of the United States as of a model of democracy?

During the radio program “Contre-expertise” hosted by Xavier de la  
Porte on France Culture, August 16, 2007, Robert Ménard, the self- 
proclaimed defender of human rights and journalists, followed the  
steps of his sponsors and legitimized the use of torture, saying some  
extremely alarming things. Evoking the murder of U.S. journalist  
Daniel Pearl, he emphasized that it was legitimate to torture  
suspects in order to save the life of innocents, reviving the  
argument of the most horrifying dictatorships and, of course, of the  
Bush administration(8).

Ménard goes further since he legitimizes even torture against family  
members of those kidnapped, or perhaps against the innocent. “If my  
daughter were kidnapped, there would be no limit, I’m telling you,  
I’m telling you, there would be no limit on torture.” Here is an  
extract of what the secretary general of RSF said:

  “The Pakistani police kidnap families, listen to me, families of  
the kidnappers and torture these families of those kidnappers in  
order to obtain information.

They are going to obtain information. They will arrive too late to  
save Daniel.  Do you know how his throat was cut and under what  

Where do we stop? Shall we accept this logic that consists of… since  
we could do it in some cases, ‘you kidnap, we kidnap; you mistreat,  
we mistreat; you torture, we torture …?’

What justifies…? Perhaps in order to free somebody, can we go there?  
It is a real question.

That is real life, it is that, what François just said: we are no  
longer in ideas, it is war, we are no longer dealing with principals.  
I don’t what to think. Because this happens to Marianne Pearl, I’m  
not saying, I’m not saying that they made a mistake because she  
thought that it was appropriate to do it, that it was necessary to do  
that, that her husband had to be saved, she was pregnant.. for the  
sake of the baby that was going to be born, everything was permitted.

And it was absolutely necessary to save him and if it was necessary  
to attack a certain number of people, they had to attack a certain  
number of people, physically attack them, you understand, threatening  
them and torturing them, even though we might have to kill some.

I don’ know, I am lost. Because sometimes I don’t know where you have  
to stop, where you have to put on the brakes. What is acceptable and  
what is unacceptable? And at the same time, for the families of those  
that were kidnapped, because many times they are the people we talk  
to first, in Reporters without Borders; legitimately, I, if my  
daughter were kidnapped there would be no limit, I tell you, I tell  
you, there would be no limit on torture”(9).

How can one try to defend human rights when a practice as abominable  
and inhuman as torture is justified? What remains of Robert Menard’s  
and Reporters without Border’s credibility – the two are so  
intimately connected that it is impossible to disassociate them—when  
they justify the unjustifiable? The secretary general of RSF showed  
his true face. He doesn’t defend freedom of the press but the hateful  
practices of the CIA. But, is it really surprising when it is  
financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (10), which is no  
more than an Agency front according to the New York Times? (11)


(1) Salim Lamrani, «Reporteros Sin Fronteras y sus contradicciones»,  
Rebelión, 27 de septiembre de 2006, http://www.rebelion.org/ 
noticia.php?id=38136 (sitio consultado el 2 de septiembre de 2007);  
Reporteros Sin Fronteras, «Lettre ouverte à ses détracteurs», Réseau  
Voltaire, 12 de septiembre de 2006. http://www.voltairenet.org/ 
var_recherche=Reporters%20sans%20frontières (sitio consultado el 12  
de septiembre de 2006).

(2) Salim Lamrani, «La guerra de desinformación de Reporteros Sin  
Fronteras contra Venezuela», Rebelión, 6 de febrero de 2007, http:// 
www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=46082 (sitio consultado el 2  
septiembre de 2007); Reporteros Sin Fronteras, «Un journaliste a été  
tué, trois autres ont été blessés et cinq chaînes de télévision  
brièvement suspendues», 12 de abril de 2002. www.rsf.org/article.php3? 
id_article=1109 (sitio consultado el 13 noviembre 2006).

(3) Reporteros Sin Fronteras, «Irak – rapport annuel 2004». http:// 
www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=9884 (sitio consultado el 18 de  
julio de 2005) ; Reporteros Sin Fronteras, «La liberté de la presse  
retrouvée: un espoir à entretenir», julio 2004. www.rsf.org/ 
article.php3?id_article=10888 (sitio consultado el 23 de abril de 2005).

(4) Reporteros Sin Fronteras, «La liberté de la presse retrouvé : un  
espoir à entretenir», julio de 2004. www.rsf.org/article.php3? 
id_article=10888 (sitio consultado el 23 de abril de 2005); Salim  
Lamrani, «Reporteros Sin Fronteras con sus contradicciones», op. cit.

(5) Reporteros Sin Fronteras, «Pékin 2008. Chine: La plus grande  
prison du monde pour les journalistes et les internautes», sin fecha.  
http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=171 (sitio consultado el  
2 de septiembre de 2007).

(6) Michel Muller, «Quand Washington légalise la torture»,  
L’Humanité, 16 de octubre de 2006.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Jean-Noël Darde, «Quand Robert Ménard, de RSF, légitime la  
torture», 26 de agosto de 2007, http://rue89.com/2007/08/26/quand- 
robert-menard-de-rsf-legitime-la-torture#transcript (sitio consultado  
el 28 de agosto 2007).

(9) Ibid.

(10) Robert Ménard, «Forum de discussion avec Robert Ménard», Le  
Nouvel Observateur, 18 de abril de 2005. www.nouvelobs.com/forum/ 
archives/forum_284.html (sitio consultado el 22 de abril de 2005).

(11) John M. Broder, «Political Meddling by Outsiders: Not New for  
U.S.», The New York Times, 31 de marzo de 1997, p. 1.

Salim Lamrani es profesor, escritor y periodista francés especialista  
de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Ha publicado los  
libros: Washington contre Cuba (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2005),  
Cuba face à l’Empire (Genève: Timeli, 2006) y Fidel Castro, Cuba et  
les Etats-Unis (Pantin: Le Temps des Cerises, 2006).

Caty R. pertenece a los colectivos de Rebelión, Tlaxcala y  
Cubadebate. Esta traducción se puede reproducir libremente a  
condición de respetar su integridad y mencionar al autor, la revisora  
y la fuente.

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