High Road for Human Rights

TORTURE AND THE RULE OF LAW

Torture & the Rule of LawHistorically, torture has been associated with totalitarian nations- nations from which the United States used to be able to distinguish itself.  Not only is torture morally and ethically wrong, but it’s illegal.  The hundreds of cases of cruel torture at the hands of US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and elsewhere has been in blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention Against Torture.  It is also a violation of several statutes passed by the United States Congress.  High Road for Human Rights seeks accountability for these immoral and illegal acts.

THE PROBLEM

We have always thought of torture as being a despicable, inhumane tool that other, totalitarian, outlaw nations utilized. These have always been nations that did not observe civilized standards of conduct. They are nations from whom we have always been proud to distinguish ourselves. Japan during World War II, North Vietnam, Argentina during the “dirty war” of the 1970s and 80s, Pinochet in Chile, the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, Pol Pot in Cambodia. The list is is tragically long.

The torture and killing of dozens of people detained and hundreds of cases of cruel torture at the hands of US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and elsewhere has been in blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention Against Torture. It is also a violation of statutes passed by the United States Congress, including the War Crimes Act of 1996 and the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998.

People around the world – reportedly between 100 and 150 of them – have been kidnapped by US agents and transported to other countries for imprisonment and torture. This disgraceful, immoral, illegal practice is referred to as the “extraordinary rendition program.” This CIA program has been approved and justified by President Bush.

Resentment, hostility, and hatred toward the US has increased dramatically because of the atrocities of our President and his administration, making the restoration of the rule of law a national security issue just as much as a constitutional one.

SOLUTIONS

Help High Road for Human Rights get the message to President Obama and Congress that we expect them to undertake the following Seven Steps to Restoring the Rule of Law, Ending Torture, and Protect our Constitution.

1. Accountability for violations of the law.

Authorize, designate, and assign special prosecutors to investigate and prosecute violations of the law by members of the Administration, particularly for involvement in felonious warrantless wiretapping, torture, and kidnappings of people in the so-called “extraordinary rendition” program.

2. “State Secrets” Doctrine.”

Limit the application of the “state secrets” doctrine in order that the courts will once again provide a meaningful check on abuses of power and violations of law by members of the Executive Branch.

3. Violations and termination of treaty obligations.

Make clear what process must be followed before any US treaty obligations are violated or terminated by any member of the Executive branch or by Congress. Congress should also reaffirm its commitment to treaty obligations forbidding aggressive war and torture and repeal the Military Commissions Act.

4. Unconstitutional signing statements.

Limit the effect of “signing statements” by enacting legislation that (1) instructs the courts they are not to consider signing statements when determining legislative history; (2) prohibits the President from issuing any statement that purports to limit any part of the legislation as being advisory or that purports to assert any authority by the President to determine the scope or applicability of the legislation; and (3) provides that no one can rely upon signing statements as a defense for a violation of the law.

5. Constitutional requirement of a Congressional Declaration of War.

Reassert Congress’s vital constitutional role and forbid, by a criminal statute with severe penalties, any attack against another nation, except in cases of actual or imminent attack of the US by that nation or as permitted under the United Nations Charter and the Constitution, absent explicit authorization by Congress.

6. Ascertainment and disclosure of the truth and prevention of future abuses.

Appoint a select committee, similar to the Church and Ervin Committees, or a non-partisan Truth Commission, charged with investigating illegal conduct or other abuses of power by the Bush Administration, disclosing such misconduct to the American people, and making recommendations concerning reforms that will prevent or deter similar misconduct in the future.

7. Repeal the Military Commissions Act.

HIGH ROAD ACTIONS

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