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Senate Bill 3861
"Bringing Terrorists to Justice" (Frist, Tenn)

In the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment torture is defined 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 acquiesance of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity".(Article 1)

Last Thursday (21 September), President Bush and several members of the Senate struck a deal on human rights. In the process, they dealt away America's commitment to fundamental human rights principles.

Make no mistake about it, this deal is a betrayal of the America we believe in. No human rights activist can remain on the sidelines in the days ahead. Call on your Senator to oppose these dangerous provisions. We are literally days away from action in Congress on a proposal to:

* Abandon the rule of law and give the President the freedom to interpret the Geneva Conventions any way he sees fit.

* Provide immunity to those responsible for past human rights abuses.

* Exempt from prosecution those who authorize treatment traditionally considered torture.

* Strip detainees of access to US courts.

The soul of our nation is in jeopardy. Everything we believe in is on the line. That's why we're mobilizing the entire Amnesty community. We're going into action today and we won't stop until every last Senator has made it clear whether he or she is willing to stand up for the America we believe in.

Please act today. Those behind this dangerous deal are doing everything they can to quickly build momentum. We have to break that momentum and we have to do it now. Call Senator Domenici and get him to defeat the torture bills.

  • Human Rights Watch

  • Definition

    Denounce Torture
    About Torture quoted from Amnesty USA

    What is the purpose of torture?

    "Torture is the systematic destruction of person, family, neighborhood, school, work, formal and informal organizations, and nation, with the purpose of controlling a population the state perceives to be dangerous. Š. Torture is the worst experience a human being can endure and survive." (1) Torturešs purpose is to change the behavior, the thinking patterns, and the personalities of the victims ­many do not survive it. By taking advantage of the personšs values and fears, torturers cut the sources of personal strength needed to resist and recover. (2) Who uses torture?

    In preparing for its third international campaign to stop torture, Amnesty International conducted a survey of its research files on 195 countries and territories. The survey covered the period from the beginning of 1997 to mid-2000. Information on torture is usually concealed, and reports of torture are often hard to document, so the figures almost certainly underestimate its extent. The statistics are shocking. There were reports of torture or ill-treatment by state officials in more than 150 countries. In more than 70, they were widespread or persistent. In more than 80 countries, people reportedly died as a result. Who is tortured?

    People may be tortured because they are activists for human rights, labor rights, or any other cause, because they are family members of these activists, or because of their identity (ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, etc). Quite often they are criminal suspects or prisoners. People may also be tortured at random if the state or an opposition group is trying to create a climate of terror in a population ­ even if the torturers do not consider this person "guilty" for any reason.
    Anyone can be tortured.
    The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has given assistance to more than 22 million internally displaced peoples, external refugees, and returnees. Many are torture survivors. Prior to leaving their homes they were persecuted and often tortured in police stations, prisons or detention camps. According to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, studies indicate that 20-30% of external refugees are torture survivors; however, the total numbers are much higher because many displaced peoples ­ even most ­ do not leave their home countries.

    Methods of torture and its effects

    Torture can be physical and include various techniques including: beating, whipping, burning, rape, suspension upside down, submersion into water almost to the point of suffocation, and electric torture with shocks of high voltage on various parts of the body, very often on the genitals.
    And it can be psychological, including threats, deceit, humiliation, insults, sleep deprivation, blindfolding, isolation, mock executions, witnessing torture of others (including onešs own family), being forced to torture or kill others, and the withholding of medication or personal items.
    Physical and neurological complications include soreness of wounds, painful scars, stiffness of limbs and muscles, atrophy and paralysis of muscles, hearing and vision loss, and persistent headaches. Torture survivors suffer psychological symptoms such as feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame, powerlessness in relation to the problems of everyday life, problems with concentration, poor sleep with frequent nightmares, and impotence.
    Specialized rehabilitation centers have been set up around the world to provide treatment to survivors. After receiving appropriate medical and psychological help, torture survivors can often resume leading healthy, involved lives.

    (1) Martinez, A. (1992). The ecology of human development. In S. Turitz, P. Davis, & J. Heisel (Eds.), Confronting the Heart of Ddarkness: An International Symposium on Torture in Guatemala Report of the Conference held by the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, Washington, DC, November 13-15, 1992) (pp. 22-25). Washington, DC: Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA.

    (2) Johnson, Douglas, (1991). Forward. In G. R. Randall & E. L. Lutz (Authors), Serving Survivors of Torture (pp. vii-xi). Washington DC: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    Torture is a serious violation of human rights and is strictly prohibited by international law. As the use of torture strikes at the very heart of civil and political freedoms, it was one of the first issues dealt with by the United Nations (UN) in its development of human rights standards. One of its earliest measures was to abolitish corporal punishment in colonial territories in 1949. International law prohibits torture and other forms of inhuman and degrading treatment, which cannot be accepted under any circumstances.

    Despite being stringently outlawed, torture continues to be practiced in a majority of countries round the world. A 2001 report by Amnesty International highlighted the use of torture by 140 states between 1997 and 2001, and found that every year thousands of perpetrators beat, rape and electrocute other human beings.

    Quoted from: Human Rights Education Associates

    What is being said about the US policy on Torture:

    Senator Pete Domenici

    "I'm pleased that an agreement has been reached on the question of interrogating terrorists that the United States has captured during the Global War on Terrorism. I have been involved in many of these discussions and believe that the most important concept has been preserved - that we will be able to continue to interrogate the terrorists who have vowed to destroy the United States. While I will continue to review the agreement, I will not support any policy that I believe will tie our hands in the war on terrorism and make Americans more vulnerable to the terrorists.˛

    Senator Jeff Bingaman

    "Under the McCain amendment, U.S. personnel are prohibited from engaging in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. I strongly support this. This ban applies to all military and intelligence personnel regardless of where they are located throughout the world. This is a clear statement that the United States will abide by its obligation to follow the law, and it is a step forward in reinstating our Nation's moral authority. "

    Physicians for Human Rights

    "The White House has consistently responded to every attempt to restrict its use of harsh interrogation tactics with its own reinterpretations of US and international law to justify these abuses. Because of this track record, Congress must explicitly prohibit CIA techniques that violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice, our treaty obligations, and America's values," stated Leonard Rubenstein, Executive Director of PHR. "Congress must not allow these clearly brutal and abusive tactics to officially become standard operating procedure in the CIA interrogation system."

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Article 5.
    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.