A Quarter Million Americans Demand Torture Prosecutions

April 23, 2009 12:00 am

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Broad Coalition Of Advocacy Groups Present Attorney General With Petition

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WASHINGTON – A broad coalition of advocacy groups today will deliver petitions containing a quarter million signatures to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that he appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s use of torture on terrorism suspects. The petitions were gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn.org Political Action, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Firedoglake.com, Democrats.com and other advocacy groups. The petitions will be delivered during Holder’s testimony before a House Appropriations Subcommittee.

Last week, through its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, the ACLU obtained four memos produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) outlining the Bush administration’s legal framework for its torture policies. This week, a watershed congressional report was released by the Senate Armed Services Committee reaffirming the coordination among the Bush White House and other high level government officials in the creation and implementation of torture policies.

Given the substantial amount of new torture evidence presented to Americans over the past week, the Justice Department is obligated to appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate these crimes. The fact that crimes were committed in the interrogation of detainees can no longer be doubted or debated, nor can the need for an independent prosecutor be ignored by any Justice Department committed to restoring the rule of law. The idea that our laws should be enforced should not be controversial in a democracy.

In fact, a recent poll from USA Today and Gallup shows that two thirds of Americans support investigations into the use of torture by the Bush administration and 40 percent support criminal prosecutions.

“Torture is a crime. It is the attorney general’s job to make sure investigations occur to determine exactly who authorized, sanctioned and carried it out so those people can be held accountable,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We’re urging Attorney General Holder to promptly appoint an independent prosecutor so our country can move towards restoring the rule of law.”

“Torture is illegal under the laws of our nation–this is not a question of left or right; it’s a question of America’s moral leadership,” said Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org Political Action. “This week our members joined the growing chorus of voices asking the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these abuses. By showing these actions have real consequences, we can we make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

“It is the Attorney General’s duty to uphold the law, not to decide which laws to uphold based on the president’s political calculus. The Bush administration compromised the independence of the Department of Justice, turning it into a political arm of the White House,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren. “Let us hope Eric Holder understands that what the president desires and the law requires is not always the same thing.”

Jane Hamsher, founder, firedoglake.com: “The release of the torture memos demonstrates how critical it is that Attorney General Holder appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the use of torture. We cannot move forward and fulfill President Obama’s commitment to restore the nation’s moral standing until we clean up the legacy of our past.”

David Swanson, Washington Director of Democrats.com: “Torturing people to compel agreement with fictional justifications for war suggests that we have not advanced greatly during the past millennium. And yet I know that we have, and that we can prove it by enforcing our laws in the face of fear and misunderstanding. A delay cannot be justified by a lack of evidence (the evidence is overwhelming) or by a political calculation. Appointing an independent special counsel to enforce our laws would give a new basis for progress in our relations with the world, a rationale for improving our criminal code moving forward, and the necessary space for congress to properly pursue accountability and prevention of future abuses of power.”

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