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THE PHENOMENON OF TORTURE
TUESDAY, MAY 15, 1984
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
The subcommittee met at 2:13 p.m., in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Gus Yatron (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. YATRON. Today's hearing is the first of a two-part series investigating the phenomenon of torture. Before we begin, I would like to thank Amnesty International for helping us coordinate these very worthwhile hearings. I also want to welcome the esteemed representatives of the other human rights groups who are contributing their expertise to this forum.
But most of all, I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to those brave victims of torture who have traveled long distances to share their own painful experiences with us. We are anxious to hear your testimony and to assist you in your fight to eradicate this universal tragedy, torture. Millions of individuals throughout the world experience acts of cruelty too brutal to imagine. They are victimized by their governments-the very institution which should protect them.
In addition to the inhumanities these people have to endure, they must endure yet another obstacle: The unwillingness on the part of well-meaning people outside of their governments to look at or listen to their story. Seeing proof of torture is too difficult for many to face, but face it we must. We Americans have much to learn about the atrocities other governments are leveling at their citizens.
In order for us to take action to combat and eventually to abolish torture, we must first understand it. We must look at where torture is being practiced, who is practicing it, and what can be done to stop it.
Our condemnation, then, should be voiced to all of the perpetrators, whether they are our friends or our adversaries. The purpose of this first hearing is to define and examine torture, to listen to those who have suffered extreme abuse, and to recognize the international instruments available to combat torture. Let us look very closely at what we see here today and not turn away if the sight becomes discomforting. We in the United States have been spared the endless agony torture victims throughout the world are realiz
ing, but we have not been spared the responsibility of fighting against the injustice.
Torture is a brutal and powerful enemy. Perhaps the distinguished witnesses before us today can teach us how we can combat, and ultimately defeat, this horrifying practice. Due to the large number of witnesses we have before us today, we are asking all witnesses to keep their statements to no longer than 5 minutes so that we may have some time for questions.
Our first witness today is Mr. John Healey, executive director of Amnesty International, U.S.A. Mr. Healey, we welcome you and all of the other distinguished witnesses to the subcommittee today.
We are also very privileged to have with us at our hearing today, the distingished chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Dante Fascell. At this time, I would like to yield to the chairman for some comments.
Chairman FASCELL. Thank you very much, Mr. Yatron. Mr. Solomon, I appreciate your allowing me to sit in on these hearings. These hearings are of great interest to those of us on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I'm privileged to join you in welcoming these witnesses here today, and also to express my appreciation to them individually and the organizations they represent for the continuing work they do on this entire subject of torture and human rights and man's inhumanity to man.
I find it almost beyond understanding but have to face the reality of the fact that such brutality exists in the world. It appears to me to be endemic in all societies. In some cases it seems to be a simple attitude problem. But in other cases, expressing dissent or having a difference of opinion makes the individual who may have some authority decide that the easiest manner to deal with the problem is either by shooting or by torturing. But nevertheless, the struggle against inhumanity is continuous. Without the individuals who will be testifying and their organizations, I'm afraid the issue of torture and brutality would be relegated to a shrug of acceptability which should not be acceptable in any society; and certainly should not be by us. Therefore we attach a great deal of importance to making this record; to the continuation of the struggle for sensitivity awareness; and for trying to improve the quality of life.
Mr. YATRON. I want to thank the distinguished chairman for being here today and also for giving us his support. And at this time, I'd like to call on the gentleman from New York, Mr. Solomon. Do you have an opening statement?
Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Chairman, we have a long day ahead of us, and I'd just like to concur with your remarks and those of our chairman and commend you for holding these hearings.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Solomon.
Mr. Healey, will you please proceed with your statement? And let me say, welcome to you and all the others.
STATEMENT OF JOHN G. HEALEY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, U.S.A., ACCOMPANIED BY LARRY COX, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Mr. HEALEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My deputy, Larry Cox, and I represent the family of Amnesty International, 500,000 vol
unteers all around the world. What we're going to talk about today is a problem that is systemic, institutionalized, and a fact of state policy.
We do not want it reduced to random policy or to violence that Occurs from time to time. We want to state that this is governmental policy against human beings. Today, in our campaign against torture, Amnesty International represents the tortured people of the world, and we would like to turn their screams into shouts of encouragement and support so that they'll never have to suffer these things again.
To do a campaign like this is to risk perversity. Perversity because the nature of this subject is such that you really don't want to talk about it and it's embarrassing even bringing in its details. But you've asked us to do that and we intend to do that. And at the other end of the spectrum is also the perversity to speak of these horrors. And not to do something about them would also be a perverse act. We want to be effective so that the screams and the agonies of those who have been hurt by their governments will cease, so that tomorrow they might sleep a little better, they might feel a little better.
I will name some of the offenders now. Envision behind each one of these countries individuals, individuals that might be your sons and daughters, that might be your parents, might be somebody down the street, and notice the old governments and new governments, governments of the north and of the south, governments of the rich and of the poor, and governments that claim high morality and governments of friends and governments of foes, and of the nonaligned.
I begin with Afghanistan, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Peru, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, Úganda, Uruguay, U.S.S.R., Zaire, and Zimbabwe.
If we could, Mr. Chairman, I would ask that all the people who have suffered torture by their governments gather together in one voice so that one voice could be turned into a song that might become a moral trumpet to the Earth, so that in some way those who have suffered might yell out to the people who have hurt them that they must begin to confront torture at every level. They would say that they'd not want any torturer to enter another country and if they did the victims should be able to sue them.
They'd like to ask their own countries to apologize to the world for what they have done to them, and they'd ask help for the wounded and the raped and the dismembered and the confused. In fact, what must happen here if anything is to be effective in these hearings, is in effect, the moral and political will be built in such a way as to not only stop torture but to abolish it as we did slavery.
I would ask you of Congress, who represent the decency of the American people in all its depth, use the deep-seated morality of this country to press the State Department, the Defense Department, all our people abroad, so that not one citizen anywhere in the world, not one U.S. citizen in particular, would ever be near this heinous crime of torture, and if they do that they would report
You know, in this dialog between torturers and those who are decent, it's hard to find the torturer, nobody admits to it; the governments don't admit to it. So how do you start a dialog when there's nobody on the other side? And nobody admits to it? How do you break through in such a way that you in fact find the torturers because they never identify themselves. And so that's what this campaign is about; we want to identify them and let people know how we can stop this heinous practice.
So finally, I'll say, let's help the victims of torture. Let's prosecute the torturer wherever he or she lives; let's not let them into our borders; let's not sell shock batons to violating countries.
Before my deputy joins me in this presentation, I'll tell you a personal story which is embarrassing but I'd like to ask Members of Congress to bear with me. When I was a young kid, I asked my mother what it would be like to reach adulthood, and she said to me that if one day I could learn to hear the weeping and the wailing of the poor, then I'd be a grown man. And I put that same challenge to you, to Members of Congress to hear the weeping and the wailing of the tortured, then comes full maturation; then you can face your constituencies and say that you've done all that you can; that you've used the power of Government to help people and to never let one of these people who have hurt someone else get away with it.
Thank you for having me here, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Mr. Healey. Mr. Cox, are you also going to testify?
Mr. Cox. Yes; we just wanted to very briefly summarize the steps that we are asking this Congress to take as part of this struggle to end torture.
Mr. YATRON. OK, you may proceed.
Mr. Cox. Thank you very much. These are specific steps that we believe will affirm the U.S. Government's abhorrence of torture, an affirmation that is very much needed, but they will do more than that. We believe they will also place additional pressure on governments to stop practicing secretly what they dare not defend openly. That pressure is very much needed, but we believe these steps would do more than that as well.
These are steps we believe, if taken seriously, will in fact, based on our experience, protect and save human lives, countless lives of men and women around the world. If the implementation of these recommendations will not automatically result in a world where to use the news phrase "children are no longer tortured," we believe very strongly that their implementation will result in a world where fewer children are tortured and that's the reason we bring them with urgency to your attention.
We are aware, of course, that Congress has already enacted legislation that incorporates human rights into U.S. foreign policy, but we are also aware-I might add painfully aware-that that legislation has been sorely ineffective and that the administration and Congress have been reluctant to enforce the laws that establish that the United States will not conduct business as usual with torturers. And so, we would like to say first, that if the human rights laws are to once again generate hope, rather than breed cynicism, they must be implemented.