Dignity Denied: The Abu Zubaydah Case Study
Human Dignity and Human Security in Times of Terrorism, Paulussen and Sceinin (eds), Springer (2020)
27 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2020
Date Written: 2020
Human dignity lays claim to multiple roles within the international political and legal order - the source or rationale of human rights, a goal of the UN Charter, the ‘ultimate value’ or ‘cornerstone’ of the international legal order, a right in itself and intimately interlinked with an array of other rights, with assessments of the impact of violations and the nature of reparation. The subjugation of human dignity is evident in much counter-terrorism practice in recent years, but epitomised by the case of rendition and torture victim Zayn al Abideen Mohammed al Hussein (Abu Zubaydah). By reference to diverse philosophical conceptions of dignity and its legal manifestations, this chapter explores the multiple dimensions of human dignity that were and are challenged in deep-rooted and wide-ranging ways by the extraordinary rendition and torture programme and on-going arbitrary detention at Guantánamo. These include the commodification of ‘high value detainees’, the centrality of dehumanisation, treating lives and liberty as dispensable, ‘civil death,’ and the link between the denial of autonomy, agency and the social dimensions of dignity. It considers in turn the role of reparation and accountability in the restoration of dignity. This extreme case invites us to reflect on the more pervasive neglect of human dignity in counter-terrorism practice and the long term implications of its demise in the name of human security.
Keywords: Dignity, Counter-terrorism, Rendition, Torture, Guantanamo, Indefinite detention, Reparation, Accountability, Secret detention, Right to life, Prisoners
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation