Letter to Obama Signed by Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Others
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today joined with other organizations to send a letter to the White House calling on President Obama to formally honor the soldiers and public servants who opposed the Bush administration's torture policies. The letter comes as the death of Osama bin Laden has reignited the torture debate, with some commentators and former Bush administration officials arguing that the nation should resurrect the torture program.
"Formally commending those who rejected torture would send a necessary message that torture is—and will always be—inconsistent with who we are as a nation," the letter to President Obama says. "Today, as voices are raised once again in support of torture, your administration should reinforce the public's understanding that our national values require a complete rejection of prisoner abuse."
The other signers are Amnesty International USA, the Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Foundations, Physicians for Human Rights, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, PEN American Center and the Rutherford Institute.
Today's letter is part of a broader ACLU campaign pressing for recognition of the courage shown by people in government and the military who reported abuse or opposed torture, sometimes at great professional or personal risk. The letter builds on a recent New York Times op-ed written by ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer and PEN American Center Director of International Programs Larry Siems. That op-ed contended that "those who stayed true to our values and stood up against cruelty are worthy of a wide range of civilian and military commendations." It named, among others, former Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora, who campaigned within the Defense Department against the legal rationalization of torture, and Lt. Col. Darrel J. Vandeveld, a Guantánamo Bay military prosecutor who refused to prosecute an Afghan boy who had been tortured.
The Bush administration, in addition to authorizing torture, formally honored some of the officials most associated with the torture policies. The letter asks President Obama to affirm that the true representatives of American values are not those who endorsed torture, but the brave men and women who did all they could to stop it.
"We owe a debt to the public servants who rejected torture," the letter says. "Honoring those who stood up against cruelty would not exhaust our national responsibility to reckon with the abuses that were committed in our name, but it would be a significant step, and a crucial one."
The letter comes ahead of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, June 26, which is the day that the Convention Against Torture (CAT) came into effect. The CAT, ratified by the U.S. in 1994, forbids governments from deliberately inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering upon those under their control and prohibits the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The full text of the letter to President Obama can be found at:
Additional information, including profiles of individuals who reported or opposed abuse, is available online at: