Berkeley Law exhibits four paintings from Fernando Botero’s (b. 1932) Abu Ghraib series which depict the torture of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. guards. The internationally acclaimed Colombian artist created the works after a whistleblower leaked photographs of the abuse in 2004. The paintings portray the victim’s experience of the secret practice of State torture, “to make visible what was invisible.” Outraged by the “hypocrisy” of the United States, a human rights champion committing torture, over 14 months Botero produced a series of 80 works as a “testimony against the horror.”
The Abu Ghraib scandal revealed a policy authorizing torture that was approved, including by lawyers, at the highest levels of the federal government. This provoked a national debate over the ethical duty of attorneys serving in the government.
The mission of Berkeley Law is to create a more just society. Lawyers play a unique role in safeguarding rule of law, protecting human rights, and fostering democratic values. The Abu Ghraib paintings provoke questions about what is required of lawyers to serve justice: Whose interests do we serve? What values do we prioritize? What are the impacts of our work on the vulnerable and marginalized?
This exhibit offers the opportunity to reflect on these universal questions. Please share your reactions to the paintings via Twitter using the hashtag #BerkeleyBoteros.