House Committee Hearing on Torture Today

The House International Relations Committee is meeting this afternoon to consider three resolutions on torture. The ACLU reports (no link yet, received by e-mail):

These resolutions would direct the executive branch to provide the House of Representatives with information about the use of torture, extraordinary rendition and compliance with the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. According to the Congressional Research Service, these resolutions of inquiry make "a direct request or demand of the President or the head of an executive department to furnish the House of Representatives with specific factual information in the possession of the executive branch."

...."America cannot hold itself as a moral beacon to the world if we violate the rule of law by engaging in torture and extraordinary rendition," said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The federal government should not be kidnapping people and sending them to countries that engage in torture. These resolutions will shine a bright light into a dark hole by requiring the federal government to disclose its activities to Congress."

The ACLU's letter to the Committee is here (html). It raises the issue of Canadian Maher Arar who was seized at JFK and transferred to Syria where he alleges he was tortured.

One issue that should be of particular interest to the Committee is the State Department's reliance on "diplomatic assurances" even from repressive regimes like Syria and Saudi Arabia -- to protect rendered individuals from torture. These assurances are formal promises, either written or verbal, from the receiving government that it will not subject the detainee to torture or ill-treatment. Yet, these assurances have not been accompanied by oversight or monitoring, and as a result, there is no mechanism for enforcement. A key example is the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin. In 2002, he was seized by U.S. authorities while transiting New York and sent to Syria, where he endured nearly a year of brutal treatment, including beatings with electrical cords, despite assurances from Syria that Arar would not be mistreated.

The resolutions are numbers 593, 624 and 642. Amnesty International, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch are also urging passage of the resolutions.

< CIA Employee Accused of Serial Burglaries | Why the McCain Amendment Won't Ban Torture >
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