Saturday, March 29, 2008

Join the Urgent Action Network!


I recently received an e-mail from Amnesty International asking for membership to its Urgent Action Network, which encourages those who sign-up to write letters demanding government/legislative response to issues of human rights violations.

Below is the link. Sign-up and take on an issue when you can. Everything makes a difference. Everything has its purpose:


Be the voice for those facing imminent and often life-threatening human rights violations.

Join together to help individuals like the 15 Tibetan monks who are at risk of torture and severe mistreatment.

Get connected. Join the Urgent Action Network.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib


CCHRIST is hosted a screening of an HBO documentary entitled Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (for more check: ).

The film does well to provide a context for protesting US involvement in human rights violations through the use of torture.

We are viewing it as impetus to inspire change on the legislative level of our government so that the US will do its best to fight the professed "War on Terror" not by violence, but by upholding human dignity at all costs.

Below is some background information to provide you with a better sense of the torture issue and US involvement therein:

On September 6, 2006, President Bush asked Congress to pass the Military Commission Act (MCA) of 2006. This Act--among other things--sought to re-define criminal liability under common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which places an absolute prhobition on inhumane treatment of detainees during an armed conflict.

Among the most troubling aspects of the MCA are provisions that purport to:

  • Grant unprecendented and unchecked authority to the Executive Brance to label as "unlawful enemy combatants," and possiblty detain indefinitely, an overly broad range of people, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents inside the United States.
  • Deny independent judicial review of detentions of legal permanent residents in the US and other non-citizens.
  • Limit the sources of law to which the courts may look and the scope of review on appeal.
  • Narrow the scope of the War Crimes Act and seek to eliminate accountability for past violations of the law.
  • Permit evidence obtained through coercion, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment to be used in the military commission proceedings.
  • Permit the introduction of evidence against the accused even in if the accused has not had the opportunity to review and challenge the "sources, methods, or activities" by which the government acquired the evidence.
  • Restrict full disclosure to the accused of exculpatory evidence if the evidence is favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial, which could have the potential to clear the defendant of guilt.
  • Give the Secretary of Defense authority to deviate from time-tested military justice standards for fair trials.
  • Strips the right of habeas corpus (a writ requiring a person to be brought before a judge or court, esp. for investigation of a restraint of the person's liberty, used as a protection against illegal imprisonment) from any foreign national in US custody that the President labels an "enemy combatant"
Despite the urging of Amnesty international and other groups and individuals to reject the bill, US Congress passed the Military Commissions Act on September 29, 2006. The ACt was presented to President Bush on October 10, 2006 and signed into law on October 17, 2006.


The Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007 (HR 1415 and S 576) will repair much of the Military Commission Act's damage to the Constitution and American values. It bans teh use of torture and abuse and makes clear that the federal government must comply with the Geneva Conventions. The bill also ensures that we have one set of laws and standards of conduct for government officials at all levels.

S. 1943, a bill introduced by Senator Kennedy, would ensure uniform standards for interrogations for everyone in US custody, regardless of which agency is holding them. This legislation would extend the McCain amendment, which restricted interrogations by a Department of Defense official or in a Department of Defense facility, to the CIA when they operate in secret prisons or elsewhere. The legislation would restrict the CIA to using only techniques that are listed in the Army Field Manual on "Human Intelligence Collector Operations," which explicitly bans the use of many techniques widely reported to have been used by the CIA including waterboarding, the use of stress positions, and sexual humiliation.

As follow-up to our screening of Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, there are a number of "take action" steps that you could complete in order to end torture:

  • Complete the brief on-line report form available at
  • For talking points, fact sheets, and legislative updates regarding the U.S. and torture visit:
  • visit
  • visit
  • call your Senators and Representatives by using the number to the U.S. capitol operator and ask to be transferred: 202-224-3121. Tell them that you are following the issue of torture closely and you expect them to work to uphold justice and human dignity in adherence to the Geneva Convention and the Convention Against Torture.

Letter template to Senator:


United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator,

Two years ago, when Cognress passed the Detainee Treatment Act, they ensured that the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment applied to everyone in US custody or control, regardless of what agency was holding them. Last year, in the case of "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld," the Supreme Court ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, banning torture, cruel treatment and outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment. I am concerned that the President's recent Executive Order on Interrogations and classified guidance delineating what techniques are available to the CIA under Common Article 3 violates those bans.

The secret detention program run by the CIA has resulted in an unknown number of people being disappeared into secret custody, and subjecting them to treament that reportedly amounts to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. With this new executive order, the President seems to leave all the same loopholes in place that would allow the CIA to continue to engage in enforced disappearances, and use interrogation techniques that amount to torture and ill-treatment. This order undermines Congress' intention in passing the Deatainee Treatment Act and also contradicts the Supreme Court's finding in "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld." It contravenes the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions, treaties that the US has signed and ratified.

By lowering the standards by which the US interprets Common Article 3, the US lowers protections for everyone, including US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I encourage you to cosponsor and pass S. 1943, a bill which would ensure uniform standards for interrogations for everyone in U.S. custody, regardless of which agency is holding them. The ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is absolute, and no agency should be exempt. I look forward to hearing from you about this important issue.