Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Destruction of CIA Torture Tapes

On NBC-TV's Today Show this morning, one of the CIA agents involved in the interrogation of terror suspects using "enhanced" techniques such as waterboarding that amount to torture indicated that approval of these practices was obtained from the highest levels of the White House each time these abuses took place. Presumably, similar approval was obtained for destruction of the tapes.

Destruction of the tapes may well have constituted obstruction of justice because several courts had previously ordered preservation of any evidence of torture taking place at the hands of the U.S. Government. But that illegality should not obscure the more serious violation of law taking place here with the President's authorization. These were the acts of torture themselves that are absolutely prohibited under both treaty obligations (the Convention Against Torture), and U.S. statutes that make torture a crime under U.S. law.

The White House and Department of Justice memoranda justifying the use of torture techniques for the interrogation of suspected terrorists by "redefining" what the U.S. government considered to meet the definition of torture did not, and could not, alter the fact that U.S. officials, possibly with the specific approval of the President, were engaging in conduct that our own laws deem serious crimes.

- Morton Sklar, Executive Director

Monday, December 10, 2007

Calling for Equality on Human Rights Day

In 1948, with the atrocities of World War II very much in mind, the nations of the world committed themselves to ending torture, prohibiting slavery, and protecting women, children, and minorities. On December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became the first international “bill of rights,” announcing the common fundamental belief in human dignity shared by all peoples, cultures, and nations.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the United States delegate, chaired the negotiations. Many who helped her draft the UDHR relied on her vision and on American ideals generally as the guiding lights for guaranteeing future freedoms. But throughout the debates, the legacy of slavery that still pervaded American government and culture undermined the moral authority of what Eleanor Roosevelt had to say. Many delegates from other countries pointed out the hypocrisy of an American telling others how to behave when the United States itself was doing little to stop lynchings and other racially-based violence within its own borders. Some of those other countries even used racism in America to excuse their own human rights abuses.

Today, racial discrimination remains pervasive and destructive in the United States. The U.S. Government recently tried to deny this was the case, painting a picture of harmony in its periodic report to the United Nations Committee to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The denials in that report rang just as false as they did sixty years ago.

In response, Human Rights USA worked with a coalition of US-based civil society groups to document the actual depth and breadth of racism in the United States, and how the U.S. Government has failed to implement the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Racial Discrimination. On this anniversary, we reiterate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ insistence that all people are entitled to the same freedoms, regardless of their race or ethnicity. And we reiterate our own commitment to ensuring that the United States is a leader, not a bad example, of how to protect international human rights.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Celebrating a Year of Unprecedented Success

As the holidays roll in, take a moment to join us in celebrating a year of unprecedented success in litigation on behalf of survivors of torture, slavery, and gender-based violence. Download our Winter 2007 Newsletter (hot off the press today!) and read about our latest work:

  • Yahoo! Inc. Settles Historic Human Rights Lawsuit
  • Human Rights USA Supports First Prosecution Under Anti-Torture Statute
  • Asylum Granted to Albanian Woman Fleeing Forced Prostitution
Join us in ringing in the new year and moving forward: