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Discussing Torture, Demanding Justice

July 2, 2010

Last Friday, I packed up a bag of supplies, hopped a train to the National City Church in D.C., and sat in the pews.  Two hundred people joined me.  No, we weren’t worshipping — we were attending a panel discussion on the need for accountability for U.S.-sponsored torture under the Bush administration.

Former FBI interrogator Matthew Alexander discussed how torture isn’t only ineffective – it’s also immoral.  A member of Physicians for Human Rights spoke about their new report exposing evidence that physicians participated in illegal and unethical human experimentation while supervising torture techniques.  A torture survivor shared her quest for healing and justice.  Georgetown law professor David Cole assessed the possibility of creating a Commission of Inquiry to shed light on past abuses.

Participants asked a ton of questions, and then we reconvened in the social hall for a reception.  The Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) had welcomed 40 torture survivors to DC, and they mingled with other participants.  Two survivors read poems about their search for wholeness and stability after arriving in the United States.  It was a powerful moment for all.

As we get caught up with present policy dramas – the change of military personnel in Afghanistan, the struggle for economic recovery, and the Supreme Court nominee hearings, to name a few – let us not forget that not long ago the United States was actively engaging in human rights abuses of the most severe degree.  Torture.  Not just by a few rogue agents, but by a professionalized network backed by U.S. government officials.

We still need to know the truth.  We still have perpetrators in our midst.  Will we stand by and let history wash away these crimes?  Or will we demand accountability and ensure that it never happens again?

FCNL worked with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amnesty International, Pax Christi USA, TASSC, and other coalition partners to put together this event.

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