ACLU Urges House Committee to Act on Torture and Extraordinary Rendition, Says Adoption of Resolutions of Inquiry A Necessary Step

February 8, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the House International Relations Committee to adopt three resolutions of inquiry directing the Bush administration to provide all documents on the development and implementation of its torture and extraordinary rendition policies. The committee is expected to meet this afternoon.

"America cannot hold itself as a moral beacon to the world if we violate the rule of law by engaging in torture and extraordinary rendition," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The federal government should not be kidnapping people and sending them to countries that engage in torture. These resolutions will shine a bright light into a dark hole by requiring the federal government to disclose its activities to Congress."

The House International Relations Committee meets today to consider House Resolutions 593, 624 and 642. These resolutions would direct the executive branch to provide the House of Representatives with information about the use of torture, extraordinary rendition and compliance with the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. According to the Congressional Research Service, these resolutions of inquiry make "a direct request or demand of the President or the head of an executive department to furnish the House of Representatives with specific factual information in the possession of the executive branch."

The ACLU, along with Amnesty International, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch, has urged the committee to adopt the resolutions. The groups have noted that, last year, Congress adopted the McCain Amendment, which uses the Army’s field manual on interrogations as the legal standard for interrogation policies and reinforces the long-standing federal ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. However, since the adoption of that amendment, President Bush and other federal officials have made statements that imply that the president can break the law and violate the McCain amendment.

Recent accounts about so-called "black prisons" operated by the government, and the use of rendition to send individuals to countries that engage in torture have alarmed Americans across the political spectrum. The ACLU noted that without access to information regarding the practices of the executive branch, Congress - and in this instance, the House International Relations Committee - would be unable to conduct effective oversight. In December, the ACLU brought the first legal challenge to the practice of rendition, when it filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Khalid El-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was kidnapped by the federal government, sent to a torture cell for several months, and then dumped on a hillside in rural Albania.

"When it passed the McCain amendment with overwhelming bipartisan support, Congress made clear that the federal government’s use of torture and abuse must stop," added Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. "However, as long as the federal government continues to hide what it is doing, lawmakers have no way of knowing if the federal government is obeying the law. It is time for the federal government to come clean and provide all of its torture documents to Congress."

To read the letter from the ACLU and others to the House International Relations Committee, go to: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/24085leg20060203.html

For more information about the El-Masri lawsuit, go to: www.aclu.org/natsec/emergpowers/22207prs20051206.html

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