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Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Baltodano. We know that it's been very difficult for you to come here and testify, and that you have suffered. We certainly feel for you and sympathize.
Mr. Mendez, under the new government, would you contend that there is an overall improvement in human rights conditions in Argentina, or are there still reports of torture in Argentina?
Mr. MENDEZ. Mr. Chairman, there's a vast improvement. It's the difference between day and night. The new Government has a very serious policy, human rights policy, and does not practice nor condone any violation of human rights, let alone torture.
It is perfectly possible that in some isolated cases, some police in common crime type of situations may still be practicing torture, and I have not heard of those cases, but I would assume that eliminating the practice of torture after so many years is not that easy.
But, there is no question, the human rights movement, although it does have some differences of opinion with President Alfonsin, makes it very clear that they are perfectly satisfied that human rights are a matter of governmental policy in Argentina today. Mr. YATRON. Thank you.
Mr. LEACH. Dr. Voloshanovich-excuse me for my pronounciation-yesterday on the House floor, we had a resolution regarding to Dr. Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner. It made me think of torture, as I listened to the witnesses today, in a little different
As you know, Dr. Sakharov is undergoing a hunger strike and one might say that it is self-initiated torture in response to a repressive government.
Would you consider this an example of torture or would you put it outside that category?
Dr. VOLOSHANOVICH. Well, it is torture through psychological pressure on Dr. Sakharov and his family. It wasn't the subject that I came here about, but I do agree with you.
It is a torture imposed upon Sakharov and his relatives in that his extreme measures were provoked by his situation.
Mr. LEACH. Well, I share that perspective, and would also say that it isn't indigenous to the Soviet Union. I mean, it's one way in which free people express frustration with a system.
We have seen an example today where although there is not nearly the kind of repressive system as behind the Iron Curtain, there are hunger strikes in Taiwan, based upon a hunger for more democratic institutions and processes. In a way, I personally think governments may be held accountable even though they did or do not in all instances initiate types of the pressure or the actual hunger strikes that are going on.
Dr. Gonzalez, in your country, how is your government reacting to your coming up here? Is there a problem with that? Is there something that we should know about?
Dr. GONZALEZ. Mr. Leach, Mr. Chairman, we have decided not to answer any questions because we need and we wish to return to our country next week.
All our statements are written in our documents.
Mr. LEACH. Well, I appreciate that and would only stress that from our perspective, any government that viewed a presentation
before a congressional committee with the thought in mind of retribution should certainly be mindful that it would become an issue within the United States itself, and, that there would be a great deal of concern evidenced in Congress if retribution were to occur.
Can you comment, in your country, in terms of instances, is torture on the decline or is it on the increase?
Dr. GONZALEZ. Mr. Leach, I have to insist I am not going to answer questions.
Mr. LEACH. Fine. Fair enough.
Dr. GONZALEZ. You'll have to forgive me.
Mr. LEACH. I can understand that entirely.
Let me just ask Mr. Baltodano a question. I'm not convinced it's something you can answer, but we're all moved by your testimony today.
Do you have any historical sense as to whether things are worse today, about the same, or better, in comparison to the Somoza regime and the use of torture?
Mr. BALTODANO [through interpreter]. I firmly believe that things are worse now. During my whole life, I never had any action taken against me by the Somoza Army.
And, in my life, I have never been in jail.
Mr. LEACH. Are there areas of the country where it's worse or better? For example, is this type of incident likely to occur in the countryside, far removed from public reporting, or is it more likely to occur in cities?
Mr. BALTODANO [through interpreter]. In the cases that happened in Nicaragua, it's much more difficult in the rural areas.
Mr. LEACH. Fine. Thank you very much.
Mr. YATRON. Mr. Solomon.
Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Chairman, I have no further questions. We're on the DOD [Department of Defense] bill, and I guess we can just proceed. I'll reserve my questions.
Mr. YATRON. I want to thank each and every one of you for being here and giving us the benefit of your views. You have been very helpful to the subcommittee.
Our final witnesses today are Michael Posner, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights; and Prof. Gerhard Mueller, distinguished professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University.
Mr. Posner will be addressing U.S. legislation on torture, and Professor Mueller will discuss police training and transfers.
Mr. Posner will be the first one to testify.
I would appreciate it if you could summarize your statement, and it will be all included in the totality in record.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL H. POSNER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, LAWYERS COMMITTEE FOR INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS
Mr. POSNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will do that.
I want to thank you also for inviting me to appear here to testify. It is late in the day and we've heard a lot in the last 2 days about torture, both what it is and how it is carried out and who does it and perhaps why.
We've heard a lot of individual examples of how torture is practiced in different countries in the world, and we've also heard some differing views about what the United States is doing and should be doing in its foreign policy to address this problem.
I would suggest that there is one additional element to which we ought to give consideration here today, and I want to devote several minutes to that issue.
Yesterday, Amnesty International presented a twelve point program for responding to torture. Several of the points listed in their testimony, deserve attention by the Congress as it considers potential laws that can be implemented here.
One of the principles that they articulated is that there should be no safe haven for torturers. A second principle is the victims of torture and their dependents should be entitled to obtain financial compensation.
I believe in both areas there is something that we can do and I will address those points.
With regard to financial compensation, there is a law now on the books, it's an old law, it's called the "Alien Tort Claims Act." It was passed in 1789. It provides that aliens can sue for torts committed "in violation of the law of nations or treaty of the United States." It's only been relied on in a handful of cases, but there is a recent case now 4 years old, Filartiga vs Pena-Irala which involved a young boy who was tortured to death in Paraguay in 1976. His family brought a lawsuit here in the United States for the act that occurred in Paraguay against the torturer who happened to be visiting New York City.
In deciding that the family of young Mr. Filartiga deserved monetary compensation, and they have now recovered or at least been awarded a $10 million judgment in the Eastern District of New York, the second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York found that deliberate torture perpetrated under the power of official authority violates universally accepted norms of international law of human rights, regardless of the nationality of the parties.
I agree that that's an important precedent and one that Congress ought to reaffirm. What I suggest in my testimony and I need not go through the details here, is that since the Filartiga decision was handed down several years ago, there have been a handful of cases that question its scope and its legitimacy.
Now, one anomaly in the law is that it allows aliens, but not citizens, to sue in tort, and I think that that is a subject that ought to be considered by this Congress. It seems to me a relatively easy thing to delete the three words, by an alien, from section 28 U.S.C. 1350. It seems ridiculous that we wouldn't extend the same protection to an American citizen to sue for torture here similar to an alien.
It's an odd statute. Its legislative history is long since forgotten since 1789, but I think a relatively simple legislative task would be to clarify it.
Second, in the course of doing that, I think Congress should make clear that section 1350 authorizes civil actions based on torture. I think that could be inserted into a legislative history, just to reaffirm what is now a somewhat confused point among legal scholars and practitioners.
The second aspect of my testimony, refers to the notion of safe haven. I am not normally in a position of coming before this Congress and asking that more restrictive immigration laws be applied, but I believe in this instance, we have a somewhat odd situation. Today there are 33 exclusion categories in our law. Some bar people who have ideological attitudes that are different from our own, on these and a number of other categories I disagree with the law. Nonetheless, today there is no category that specifically bars torturers.
It would seem to me a relatively straightforward legislative task to add a 34th category that would state specifically that anyone who commits torture under the color of law should be barred from our country.
Our office represents aliens, and we have a lot of problems with the Immigration Service, and the State Department in their handling asylum claims and other matters. So, we are eager to provide civil liberties protection, and I have suggested several things that I think will do that. They are outlined in my testimony.
I think if this is an idea that attracts some attention in the Congress, we would be glad to share our concerns and perhaps help in drafting a bill that has the necessary safeguards.
Thank you very much.
[Mr. Posner's prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF MICHAEL H. POSNER
Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to
Mr. Chairman, we welcome your initiative in