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Statement By The Survivors Of Torture To The President Of The United States And To Members Of The National Security Council
By Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Committee (TASSC)
The United Nations has declared June 26 as the International Day in Support of Torture Victims and Survivors. We who are international survivors of torture have gathered in Washington, D.C. to commemorate this day and wish to make the following statement:
There is no justifiable use of torture. Torture is absolutely prohibited under international law and is a crime against humanity. Torture is an attack to the very core of human dignity and is designed to destroy individual personalities and trust in humanity. We are survivors not only because we lived through serious physical and/or psychological infliction of pain but, above all because we have kept our dignity as individuals intact. Still, we bear in our minds, our bodies and our souls the destructive effects of this practice. Our struggle for survival has extended to our present lives. Many of us have been uprooted, becoming refugees; some of us feel like strangers and exiles in our homelands. We personally testify to the devastating effects of torture on our families and communities.
As U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan stated in the Diplomatic Conference to establish an International Criminal Court, very often states have been behind the most heinous atrocities known in our world. As survivors of the horrors of torture, we know that states plan, train, and perpetrate acts, often terrorism, and in many cases act in complicity with multinational corporations. Yet, states deny committing these acts of state terrorism.
Torture has become an endemic, systematic, and sophisticated tool of state repression in the very century where human rights treaties have condemned it as a crime. Ten years ago 80 counties were engaged in the practice of torture. Last year, according to Amnesty International, more than 117 countries used torture to control and "discipline" their population. Not only dictatorships engage in this practice. A contemporary feature is that democratically elected governments may also engage in systematic torture. We recognize that national security is a legitimate interest of any government. However, it has become the practice of many governments to place national security interests above respect for human rights and human life.
As an example, the United States has supported the assumption of power by dictators such as Somoza, Marcos, Pinochet and Fujimori. It has also supported regimes that, although democratic in appearance, are indeed responsible for crimes against humanity. The classification of government policies that affect human rights creates a climate in which these crimes can be committed with impunity and such secrecy violates basic democratic principles.
We therefore urge the United States government to take the following actions:
We insist that President Clinton issue a public proclamation renewing the United States government's commitment to eradicate the practice of torture in the world.
We urge President Clinton and members of Congress to stop supporting regimes engaged in torture and to align its foreign policy with its obligations under international human rights law.
We call on President Clinton and members of Congress to declassify all documents related to human rights abuses.
We urge the President and members of Congress to ensure protection for all people already in the United States or those seeking asylum in the United States who are at risk of torture in their home countries, in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture.
We also call on the government to ensure that no person who has committed human rights atrocities is permitted to enter the United States. As a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, the United States must prosecute anyone who has committed such crimes and who is under its jurisdiction.
We believe that, as the world's most powerful nation, both politically and economically, the United States has a particular responsibility to eradicate this barbaric practice through diplomatic pressures and partnerships with other countries.