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Taking a Stand Against Torture

February 22, 2010

How loud does your voice have to be for your message to be heard?

On February 17, a few brave students protested against John Yoo, who had appeared as a guest speaker at Johns Hopkins. In the middle of the talk, they stood up and unfurled a sign reading, “Try Yoo for Torture.” Even though they were silent, their message was heard.

This bold act of civil disobedience challenged the dominant narrative that Yoo would have his audience believe. John Yoo, for those of you who may not be familiar with his name, is one of the authors of the “torture memos” that provided legal justification for the Bush administration to torture detainees suspected of terrorism. (You can read the torture memos here.) Yoo continues to teach at Berkeley and conducts speaking events where he insists that he has done nothing wrong.

FCNL responded to the release of the “torture memos” by calling for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate US-sponsored torture. In addition, we urge Congress to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in a way that respects human rights.

Until these steps are taken, however, people like John Yoo are allowed to continue with business-as-usual. Even a recent Justice Department report, which human rights advocates had hoped would condemn Yoo’s actions, has been a wash. The report did not find Yoo guilty of professional misconduct, even though his memos justified harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding.

I am thankful for people like these brave students who offer constant reminders that justice has not yet been served. In their quiet and non-violent way, they take a stand against torture. How can you, in your own community, do your small part to urge others to think critically about the need for justice and accountability?

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