On July 1st, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), concluded its 87th annual conference during which they unanimously adopted a new resolution called Calling on All Presidential Candidates to Make Known Their Positions on Nuclear Weapons and to Pledge U.S. Global Leadership in Preventing Nuclear War, Returning to Diplomacy, and Negotiating the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons”. According to United for Peace and Justice, the resolution calls on “all Presidential candidates of all political parties” to make these “priority issues in the 2020 Presidential campaign”.
The resolution acknowledged the profound dangers of the recent abrogation of the INF Treaty and called on all candidates to pledge to get back into the agreement, officially renounce a first strike policy, abide by the NPT obligation of nuclear powers to work toward disarmament, and reverse Washington’s opposition to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons – a treaty supported by virtually all countries of the world except for the current nuclear powers.
United for Peace and Justice described the USCM as:
[T]he nonpartisan association of 1,408 American cities with populations over 30,000, has unanimously adopted Mayors for Peace resolutions for 14 consecutive years. Resolutions adopted at annual meetings become USCM official policy.
As noted in this year’s resolution, “Mayors for Peace is working for a world without nuclear weapons and safe and resilient cities as essential measures for the achievement of lasting world peace, and has grown to 7,756 cities in 163 countries and regions, with 215 U.S. members.”
In a recent post, I expressed skepticism about a Levada Center poll reported on by western media claiming that 10 percent of Russians had been tortured by Russian law enforcement authorities. This post was forwarded by my mentor, Sharon Tennison, to her large network of followers, which includes both Russian and American professionals, including members of academia, law, journalism, retired diplomatic personnel and others who are interested in her three decades of work fostering good will, understanding and citizen-to-citizen ties between the U.S. and Russia. Last week, Sharon posted some important feedback on my post from a Russian-American lawyer, Igor Brusil, who was able to review the original report by the Levada Center. He was also able to speak to the authors of the Levada Center report for clarification on the methodology used. Here is what he reported back:
Yesterday and today I received three emails from the individuals involved in the Levada Center’s survey on torture. These emails clarified what was meant as “torture” in the context of that survey. However, it became clear to me that the key question – “what exactly happened to you that you consider to have been torture” – was not answered by the survey. In fact, such a question was not even posed to the responders.
First, according to Levada Center, it approached the survey from the standpoint of “torture” as this term is defined in the UN Convention Against Torture, which may be found at https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cat.aspx. In that document “torture” is defined in Article 1 as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”
Second, it appears that another, more expansive, understanding of “torture” was at play, as described on page 44 of the Levada report. According to page 44, “torture” includes verbal abuse, threats of extortion and other non-physical acts, as well as threats directed at third persons.
Third – and more important – is that those respondents (all 356 of them), who said they had been “tortured” relied on their own understanding of torture. Even more interesting is that Levada did NOT ask those 356 individuals what exactly happened to them that the respondents regarded as “torture.”
I find it curious that those 356 individuals could not even agree on what acts constitute torture. For example, as shown in Table 32 on page 56 of the report, of those “tortured” respondents only 54% regard the use of electrical shock, wet towels and cellophane bags as torture; 73% regard acts like “rape and physical violence that leads to trauma” as torture; and 41% regard verbal abuse as “torture.”
Considering that there may have been up to three understandings of torture at play (one – UN Convention, two – explanation on page 44, three – whatever the respondents thought), the study would have been stronger, in my view, if Levada had asked its respondents to list specific acts of their alleged torture and then applied the same definition of torture to those acts. However, as the survey stands now, it suggests that about 10% of those who had “a conflict” with law enforcement subjectively regard at least some of the acts of law enforcement as torture, but we do NOT know what those acts are.
You may print my initial comment on this survey and follow it up with this summary of the responses I have received from Levada. I think that any intelligent analysis of a survey requires that we know the survey’s methodology and assess its validity in light of the limitations of the methods used.
IGOR A. BRUSIL, Esq.
The Brusil Law Group, Ltd.