Saturday, October 14, 2006

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Questions for Candidates on U.S. Torture Policy and Practices

We want to know where you stand on U.S. torture policy and practices. We would appreciate your answers to the following questions:

1. The U.S. Congress approved Senator John McCain’s amendment last year to ban torture by all U.S. government agencies. This move recognized that a ban on torture is not only a moral necessity but also essential to ensure the same protections for U.S. soldiers. Recent legislative action, however, allows harsh interrogation techniques to be used by non-military interrogators. Will you support future legislation that bans all U.S.-sponsored torture, with no exceptions and directs all U.S. agents to abide by the Geneva Conventions?

2. The federal War Crimes Act of 1996 defines a war crime as any “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions’ Common Article 3. This standard ensures that those who commit such abuses, including against our own troops, do not go unpunished. Do you believe the United States should maintain an unwavering commitment to Common Article 3?

3. The president acknowledged the existence of a CIA program that indefinitely detains “enemy combatants” in secret sites outside the rule of law and without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Individuals detained in such locations are afforded no safeguards of due process and may be subject to unchecked abuses. Will you call upon the United States to cease all secret detentions and provide the ICRC access to all U.S. prisoners, as required by our international treaty obligations?

4. Under the practice of “extraordinary rendition,” the United States transports individuals from one country to another without judicial oversight to face criminal charges in the receiving country. Diplomatic assurances from the receiving government are designed to protect the human rights of the detainee, but many officials have confirmed that the U.S. has no capacity to ensure humane treatment under these circumstances. Do you support a prohibition on transfers of individuals in U.S. custody to other countries where they are likely to be tortured regardless of assurances otherwise?

5. Recent legislation will permit—for the first time in the history of the United States— individuals to be convicted based on evidence obtained through abuse or torture (admitted through hearsay evidence). Will you oppose this practice, even for trials involving terrorism suspects?

6. By making War Crimes Act changes that are retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, Congress has immunized all top government officials and CIA agents against prosecution for interrogation policies that resulted in the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and in secret government torture cells around the globe. Should top government officials, private contractors, and CIA officials be given blanket immunity for their past conduct?

7. More than two years after the Abu Ghraib photos were published — and nearly four years after the first abuse-related deaths in U.S. custody as part of the “war on terror” — we are still not in a position to say that we know how this situation came about so that we can ensure that such abuses never happen again. Do you support the establishment of an independent commission to investigate U.S. detention and interrogation policies and practices since Sept. 11, 2001, and to hold those who authorized and carried out abuses accountable?

8. Under recent legislation, the president will be permitted to authorize acts that are prohibited by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogations, without the possibility of court review of this authority. This strips the courts of their historical and constitutional role as a check on the executive branch. Do you oppose this broad expansion of executive powers, allowing the president to choose to follow or not follow international treaties, and that will side-step the authority of our courts system?

Friday, October 13, 2006