Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

We are calling on the U.S. Congress to affirm through a concurrent resolution its absolute condemnation of torture. To be meaningful, such a resolution must state clearly, once again, that the practice of torture is by definition a gross violation of human rights, that it is unacceptable under all circumstances, and that determining its existence will trigger the implementation of the laws that link human rights violations and bilateral and multilateral assistance.

Furthermore, we would like such a resolution to make clear that in cases where the allegations of torture are widespread and numerous, the United States will not simply accept a denial of the obvious but will pressure the offending governments to take specific meaningful steps to abolish torture, and we have outlined 12 steps that any government serious about ending torture will have taken or will be willing to take to see that it is ended. I would like to have put in the record excerpts from our briefing on the campaign against torture which outline in detail what those steps are.1

Thank you.

Second, we would like the Congress to make such a declaration or resolution credible by passing legislation that specifies and increases the responsibility of the government and in particular the State Department, to regularly act against torture.

Ambassadors, for example, should be instructed to investigate allegations of torture, to raise the issues of secret and incommunicado detention, to stress the importance of access of family, lawyers and doctors to detainees and to intervene, above all, in individual cases that come to their attention.

We would like to see this work reported semiannually to the Congress and in the annual Country Reports, we would like to see specific mention of the steps the governments are or are not taking to halt or prevent torture, again using the 12-point program that I've already mentioned. Again, these steps are sometimes simple, but in our experience working against the violations of human rights, we know that these steps can in fact save lives.

Third, when it is decided, as it recently was in this House with regard to El Salvador, that a country will receive U.S. aid despite such gross violations of human rights as widespread torture and murder, there must be and there should be legislation to mandate a detailed explanation of the other steps that the United States is taking to combat these attacks on the security and integrity of the person.

With all due respect, we find it shameful that Congress would allow U.S. aid to be given without the requirement of specific measures to end the torture and the murder carried out by the government receiving such aid.

Finally, we believe that it is Congress itself that must take the responsibility for determining which governments practice torture and are therefore gross violators of human rights. It is meaningless to have laws requiring aid reductions to gross violators of human

1 See app. 1.

rights if no one is willing to say, no one dares to name, who those violators in fact are.

To do this, we feel that Congress must have the capacity for independent data gathering, including increased ability to undertake onsite investigations, and to intervene in individual cases. And we strongly recommend that adequate funds be appropriated and a staff be hired for this purpose. We believe that such appropriations, which would focus on protecting the security of the person, would complement the recently established structures that are designed to promote democracy.

And once again, in addition to helping this body determine the truth about torture, such congressional investigations would themselves reduce torture and would in fact save individual lives. There are other recommendations included in our written testimony which have already been mentioned with regard to monitoring the transfer of equipment used in torture, that have to do with the treatment of refugees, in particular the need to insure that people are not returned to situations where they are likely to be tortured and which have to do with providing funds to help in the rehabilitation of those victims. But in the interest of time, Mr. Chairman, I will not go into great detail. Some of that will be the subject of later testimony during these hearings.

I will only add that we know there are those who will argue, perhaps not in these hearings but certainly after these hearings, that these and the other measures to combat torture that we are recommending can only be taken when they do not threaten other legitimate national security interests. We would, therefore, like to take this occasion to emphasize our firm belief that it is never in the interest of true national security that the United States be or be perceived to be on the side of torture.

We are also aware that there are those who will argue that realistically there is really little or nothing that can be done to stop acts of torture by other governments, whether they are friendly or not. This argument too is, of course, not a new one. More than 40 years ago, when reports began to appear of the incredible tortures and killings being conducted as policy by the Nazis, I'm sure there's no need to remind this body that there were those who denied the fact and many others who urged caution and quiet and yet others who said that nothing could be done.

Today, of course, we know differently. Today, 40 years later, we find it possible to admit that much more could have been done; that the silence of so many was unforgiveable, that lives could have been saved. We feel it is important, as was done not too long ago in this city, to look back at the holocaust and remember those who were lost.

We also think it's important to raise, discuss, and debate what could have been done at that time, but it is equally important to ask the question, which I'm sure will be asked repeatedly during these hearings, what can be done at this time, and this is the question that we pose to this body.

We know that there are men, women, and children who are being tortured today, in 1984, in at least one-third of the nations of this world. We know from our own experience that some of that

torture can be stopped. The question is, what will be done to stop it?

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[The joint prepared statement of Messrs. Healey and Cox follows:]

JOINT PREPARED STATEMENT OF JOHN G. HEALEY, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, AND LARRY COX, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, U.S.A.

THE REALITY OF TORTURE

Today more than one third of the world's governments systematically torture prisoners. Amnesty International's recently published report,

Torture in the Eighties, excerpts of which I ask to submit for the record, cites allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in 98 countries. Governmental abuse is not confined to the left or the right, the East or the West. Hundreds of thousands of citizens have been brutalized from security headquarters in Spain to prison cells in Iran, from secret police centers in Chile to interrogation houses in Afghanistan.

I would like to read a partial list of those countries from which Amnesty International receives persistent reports of torture. Behind every name are the damaged individuals who have suffered in ways most of us can only begin to imagine. Afghanistan, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mexico, Namibia, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, Peru, the Republic of Korea, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay, the USSR, Zaire, and Zimbabwe. Despite universal condemnation the practice of torture as a tool of state policy remains widespread. Amnesty International is committed to do all it can to end the practice. Last month Amnesty International launched a special two-year Campaign for the Abolition of Torture. The work for the release of prisoners of conscience, fair and prompt trials for all political prisoners, and an end to executions and torture forms the core of Amnesty International's work. We commend this committee's

interest in facing this issue as shown by these hearings and we appreciate the opportunity to testify today. Amnesty International urges the United States Congress to join this effort and use its power and influence to end the practice of torture.

The United Nations defines torture as any severe physical or mental pain intentionally inflicted for punishment, intimidation, confessions, or information by or at the instigation of a public official. in the torturer's electrode is the power and the responsibility of the, state.

Concentrated

With the government's support the torturer controls everything, even life itself. An Argentine woman, Graciela Guena remembers the guards telling her, "We are God in here," as they repeatedly applied electric shock to her body. "They called us 'the walking dead,'" she said, "reminding us constantly that the only thing to be decided was the time of death."

Degradation, humiliation, and unbearable pain are key in the torturer's efforts to break down all traces of human dignity. Prisoners are degraded with insults, sexual threats or assaults, the forcible eating of excrement, and the humiliation of their families. They suffer the pain of constant beating, electric shock, and having their flesh burned with cigarettes.

At times special apparatus are used. A Syrian tool is the "black slave," an electrical apparatus that forces a heated metal skewer into the bound victim's anus. Doctors in the Soviet Union administer pain-causing, disorienting, and often permanently disabling drugs to prisoners of

conscience detained in psychiatric hospitals: In Chile doctors are present to insure that the victims survive for further torture and to prevent them from escaping through unconsciousness or death. If the doctors fail, they often certify cause of death as suicide or disease.

Other techniques are devastatingly simple. In Rwanda prisoners have been held for more than a year in cells totally devoid of light. One Iranian prisoner was blindfolded for more than two years. A fellow prisoner, later released, noted, "After 27 months he sits, largely in total silence, nodding his head from one side to the other. he just sits knocking his head on the wall."

Torturer is no respecter of persons. Victims include people of all social classes, age groups, trades, professions, and beliefs. They may be criminal suspects or political detainees. Children in El Salvador have been tortured and in Iran they've been forced to watch their mothers brutalized. Wives and husbands have endured the sights and sounds of their spouses being beaten, burned, or killed. One prisoner in Turkey witnessed the torture of a married couple in 1981. I will not repeat what he told us--it is unspeakable--but it is absolutely incumbunt on all people to understand that every act of inhumanity imaginable is realized in today's world.

Torturers are usually members of special military or police units or prison employees. How they become torturers varies, but insight into their training in at least one country emerged during the trials of accused torturers who worked under the military junta in Greece from 1967 to 1974. It is clear from this case that torture does not occur

Sometimes

« ÎnapoiContinuă »