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be adopted as part of their criminal code; it would be treated as if it were a theft or rape or burglary.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. For the most part, torture which currently exists in countries is not against the law or it is against the law going on anyway?
Ms. YOUNG. What this Convention really envisions is finding a torturer from another country in your country, not really prosecuting someone within the country in which he is torturing, but say, if we found someone in the United States against whom the allegations could be raised that he had committed torture against this particular person in Chile or in Nicaragua, or in South Korea, anywhere, then our courts would be seized with jurisdiction because it would be part of our criminal code.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. Mr. Solomon.
Mr. SOLOMON. I just wanted to thank the witnesses for testifying. Mr. KOSTMAYER. Yes. I want to say to you, especially Mr. Shestack, we appreciate your testimony and I look forward to working with you on that possibility of a resolution. While of course, the House does not have treaty confirmation power, I think the notion you talked about might be a valid one and a valid way in which the House could express its view on the subject.
And I again apologize for the short shrift we've given you this afternoon. I thank you very much for testifying.
The meeting is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 5:02 p.m., the meeting was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
THE PHENOMENON OF TORTURE
WEDNESDAY, MAY 16, 1984
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
The subcommittee met at 10:04 a.m., in room 2200, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Gus Yatron (chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations) presiding.
Mr. YATRON. The Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations will come to order. I would like to welcome our distinguished witnesses, as well as our guests to the second part of our series of hearings on the "Phenomenon of Torture."
During yesterday's hearing, torture was defined and examined by experts from the human rights and academic communities.
Victims of this heinous crime described the physical and psychological suffering they experienced at the hands of their governments. Legal experts identified international laws and standards to be used in torture prevention.
Still, our education on the practice of torture remains incomplete. Now that we have heard what torture is, and have seen how it affects peoples' lives, we must determine what specific actions can be taken to combat this cruelty.
The purpose of today's hearing is to examine U.S. policy and legislation on torture, to ask advice from frontline professionals who have applied their knowledge and skills in fighting torture throughout the world, and seek recommendations from all the witnesses who have appeared before this subcommittee during these 2 days.
It is my intention that these hearings on torture be a formal denounciation of governments that level inhumane and degrading treatment, and an affirmation of those governments that value and adhere to the basic tenants of human rights.
Hopefully, these hearings will give us both the impetus and the ammunition necessary to protect the powerless.
Our first witness today is the Honorable Elliott Abrams, the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
Mr. Abrams, we welcome you to the subcommittee once again. Please proceed with your statement.
Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Chairman, could I just ask a question before we start? Excuse me for interrupting, sir.
I understand there is going to be a vote on the approval of the Journal which was postponed until 10:25, and/or a quorum called at that time.
What is going to be the procedure for the rest of the day then as far as this subcommittee is concerned, while the joint session is going on?
Mr. YATRON. I know the joint session of Congress will be going on with the President of Mexico. I thought if we could continue with the hearing, I would prefer to do that. We could go over to the floor, vote, and come back. Unfortunately, we would have to miss the President of Mexico's speech.
Mr. SOLOMON. OK. I have no objection.
Mr. YATRON. Unless there is objection, I'd like to proceed in that order.
Do you have an opening statement, Mr. Leach?
Mr. LEACH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have no opening statement.
I would like to welcome our distinguished Assistant Secretary, and suggest that if he sticks with his text, it will be an excellent statement.
I am sure you will not deviate from it, and we welcome it very much. This is an issue on which I think there is very little partisan division in the subcommittee, and we appreciate your coming this morning.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF HON. ELLIOTT ABRAMS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, BUREAU OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS
Mr. ABRAMS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Leach. With that kind of introduction, I can assure you I'll stick with the text.
Let me begin by saying that the Government of the United States is, of course, profoundly and unalterably opposed to any and all forms of torture. There can be no justification for such abhorrent practices, which offend the conscience of mankind and violate every moral law.
Yet, despite the various international covenants and conventions designed to promote universal adherence to human rights, the tragic fact is that torture is widely practiced by governments today. According to Amnesty International's report, "Torture in the 1980's," prisoners have been tortured or cruelly treated in at least one out of every three countries within the past 4 years.
The methods of torture range from the primitive to the sophisticated, and are a terrible reminder of mankind's capacity for inhumanity and evil.
Clearly, torture is a human rights problem of enormous magnitude. The fact that torture is practiced by so many governments in so many parts of the world suggests that there is no one explanation to account for its persistence.
Some regimes lack popular legitimacy and resort to torture in order to punish or intimidate dissidents. Other regimes feel them
selves under siege by terrorists and regard torture as a means of self-defense. Still other governments believe that certain minorities, the Baha'i in Iran is an obvious example, deserve to be treated cruelly and inhumanely.
In short, it's very difficult to generalize about the causes of torture. There is one conclusion about torture, however, which I think can be advanced with a good deal of certainty.
Generally speaking, democratic governments are far less likely to engage in torture than nondemocratic governments. This is because such institutions of free speech, free press, freedom of assembly and associations, free elections, have built respect for human rights into the very foundations of democratic governments.
Thus, although cases of torture can and do occur in a democracy, democratic institutions are designed to bring these cases to light and to punish the culprits. Bringing torture to light is absolutely crucial, for as Justice Brandeis once observed, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Among NGO's-nongovernmental organizations-none have been more active than Amnesty International in publicizing cases of human rights abuse. Amnesty's report on torture is a case in point, and we welcome this report, both for its wealth of information and for its specific recommendations.
I have already met with representatives of Amnesty International, and I'm pleased to note that one of the recommendations concerning the need to provide more information about secret detention centers is already receiving sympathetic consideration by the Department.
With its report, Amnesty has repeated its 12-point program for the prevention of torture, and I want to just call particular attention to 3 points.
Point 2 calls for the limits on incommunicado detention, and point 3 opposes secret detention. Amnesty has made a very valuable contribution in calling attention to the dangers of incommunicado detention, and, above all, secret detention.
These practices gravely increase the opportunities to torture undetected, and, thus, increase the chances that it will take place.
In closed societies where we have little precise information on torture, I agree that we should take prolonged incommunicado detention and secret detention as red flags. They should alert us to the very real likelihood that torture is taking place.
Accordingly, we are considering how to give these factors greater recognition in our annual human rights reports.
Amnesty's point 8, prosecution of alleged torture, is also particularly significant. Let's take Turkey as an example.
For a long time, torture has been a serious problem in Turkey. Rather recently, the government has charged, tried and convicted police personnel accused of torture. Obviously, the problem of torture remains, but the existence of a risk of prosecution and incarceration must act in Turkey as a significant deterrent to acts of torture.
So, we should definitely pay special attention to whether officials are punished for torture or not.
I'd like to draw special attention to a section of the Amnesty report documenting allegations of torture in specific countries.
Generally speaking, these reports are consistent with our own information in the annual country reports. In fact, I think the Amnesty report and our report compliment each other quite well.
One principal difference concerns the time periods covered. Amnesty's report covers 1980 to 1982, primarily; while we, of course, did a 1983 report, though with a little bit of data from 1984.
The other difference is in the question of detail. Amnesty tends to go into greater detail because its book deals exclusively with torture, whereas our report deals with all other forms of human rights abuse as well. And, of course, Amnesty surveyed 66 countries, whereas we surveyed 160.
But, I think, in general, both reports reach similar conclusions about the practice of torture.
My one criticism of the Amnesty report concerns what I would regard as an error of omission. The Amnesty report completely ignores reports of torture in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Grenada. While it contains a report on the practice of torture in the Republic of Korea, South Korea, there is no corresponding report on North Korea.
I find the omission of real problem countries, such as Cuba, quite troubling. I firmly believe that these omissions simply reflect problems of access because we often do not have very much information about human rights abuses in closed societies.
These societies often tend to receive less attention and criticism than relatively open societies. Overcoming this built-in bias in favor of closed societies is a problem which all human rights reports, including the Department's, must grapple with.
I only wish Amnesty International had done more to overcome this problem.
This criticism notwithstanding, however, I think Amnesty is to be commended for a report that is a challenge to the conscience.
Mr. Chairman, we in the Bureau of Human Rights and throughout the Reagan administration, regard ourselves as activists in this struggle for human rights.
Over the past 3 years, the U.S. Government has employed a broad range of instruments and techniques in responding to specific cases of human rights abuse, such as torture and cruel treatment of detainees.
In dealing with friendly governments, our initial response upon receiving reports of someone being illegally detained and maybe undergoing torture, is to engage in the kind of frank diplomatic exchanges often referred to as quiet diplomacy.
The phrase quiet diplomacy fails to convey either the intensity of our efforts or the depth of our concerns on behalf of victims of torture and brutality.
I want to stress, therefore, that quiet diplomacy refers only to the confidentiality of the channels we use, not to the intensity of our representations.
The truth is that this kind of diplomatic activity has proved its effectiveness in a number of countries. When diplomatic approaches do not avail or where we have very little diplomatic influence or access, we have disassociated ourselves from the odious human rights practices by utilizing established law and vigilant application of our human rights policies.