Tuesday, November 18, 2008

To End Torture: START NOW

Friends--

I've been reflecting on how most of the proposals I've seen for opposing torture in the coming years seem too narrow and oriented to one or another "silver bullet" idea.

The problem is more complex, and more entrenched, it seems to me. So I've been drafting an outline that I think is more comprehensive. The working title is "START NOW," an acronym for the main elements.

The current draft is pasted below for your review. It's a working document now, but when it's finalized, and with approval of our board, I hope it could be published as a flyer or brochure, as well as posted online.

I'd appreciate your thoughts.

Chuck Fager

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President-Elect Barack Obama, November 16, 2008:

“I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture.
And I'm going to make sure that we don't torture.”


To Make Sure: START NOW

START NOW is a comprehensive outline of steps toward eradicating torture from the United States government and military system:

START:

1. S = The first step is to STOP IT. Issue a presidential executive order, banning "enhanced interrogation techniques" in all U.S. agencies and facilities. Re-establish the restrictions in the Army Field Manual, apply to all military and intelligence services.

– Follow up to see that the order is followed.

– Identify and specifically revoke all secret memos and orders from the White House and agencies that authorize torture or inhibit investigations of torture allegations.

– Dismantle the torture infrastructure. Close Guantanamo. Identify and close other secret detention facilities. Terminate arrangements with third countries for torture-by-proxy. Cancel contracts with Aero and other CIA torture flight front companies. Follow up with investigations to ensure compliance.

– Preserve all relevant records, by impoundment if necessary.

2. T = TRUTH. Find and make public the actual record of U.S. agencies and contractors relating to abuse and torture. To do so, launch investigations into allegations of torture, other war crimes, and conspiracy to commit these acts. The principal investigative focus would be the period since the beginning of 2002; but relevant earlier events will be included.These investigations to proceed on numerous fronts, to include:

– Inspectors General in the relevant intelligence and federal agencies;

– The Government Accountability Office;

– The Justice Department, including independent counsels where advisable;

– Congressional hearings and probes, using subpoena power;

-- Specially-created investigative bodies ("Truth Commission")

– State-level reviews into possible violations of state laws by front companies and contractors.

– Cooperate with investigations by international agencies and other governments

– Encourage journalists and independent investigators in their fact-finding efforts.

3. A = ACCOUNTABILITY. Initiate enforcement actions for alleged war crimes and torture committed by U.S. citizens, agents or contractors. To this end:

– Rescind all exemptions for private contractors from applicable U.S. and international laws against torture and abuse.

– Convene grand juries in affected jurisdictions.

– In the military, initiate disciplinary procedures for those who took part in, gave orders for, or drafted policy guidance that permitted torture and abuse in contravention of the applicable field manuals, US laws and treaty obligations. Such procedures to begin at the top of the relevant commands.

– State officials to follow up when torture and conspiracy allegations involve violations of state laws.

4. R = RESTITUTION/COMPENSATION for victims of US torture, kidnaping, imprisonment without trial, and other related abuses, inflicted either directly by U.S. agents, contractors, or by proxy states. The cases of Maher Arar in Canada, who was granted $9 million in compensation by the Canadian government, and Ahmed Agiza in Sweden, of $377,000, are early examples of restitution payments.Open US courts to such claims. Withdraw or severely restrict the doctrine of "state secrets" as a way of avoiding this litigation.

5. T = TREATMENT: Medical, psychological, and social welfare services to be provided to victims and their families, at government expense. This may be the one part of this program where the country is already reasonably well-prepared. A network of treatment centers for torture survivors is already in place. To meet the scale of the need, this network may require expansion.

NOW – ACTIONS:

1. NEVER let up: ending torture is a long-term project. Stay informed about torture issues.

2. ORGANIZE: Keep the issue of torture in the public arena:

– Form or join local committees and coalitions to pursue the end-torture agenda.

– Conduct public witness: vigils demonstrations, protests

– Organize forums and conferences

– Write letters to the editor; Op Eds, articles in local/regional media. Blog!

– Work in churches and professional groups for statements and actions to end torture.

– Press local and state officials for action at these levels

3. WORK on the government: Lobby Congress, the White House, and federal agencies to eradicate the roots and legacy of official torture

– Find supportive organizational partners among national groups; collaborate.

– Stay in touch with your US. Representatives & Senators; don’t let them evade the issue.

– Monitor international efforts, support and join with them when practical.

3 comments:

Peace Clown said...

Thank you for your wonderful outline. I think you've articulated it perfectly. I'm ready to START NOW!

Jesse said...

Solid analysis and great acronym! Thanks,
Carol Wickersham

Helena Cobban said...

Hi, Chuck, thanks for doing this. In general, the points you advocate are all excellent.

Just one small point on substance: "restitution", strictly speaking, is a return to the exact status quo ante: You stole my pen? When you give me that same pen back, still in good condition, that's restitution. If you give me another pen back instead, that's compensation.

So restitution, as such, is nearly always impossible after the commission of torture. You cannot simply return the tortured person and her/his family to the condition they were in before the torture. To that extent, the effects of torture are indelible. What you can do, however, is provide Reparation (= repair, in as holistic a way as we can think of it, including but not limited to financial reparations) to the harmed individual and her/his family.

At a broader level, I'm still trying to get my head around a campaign to "Stop" torture that comes with the buzzy acronym "START now." Start what? Start stopping? Let me think about this some more...

I really like the emphasis you put on transparency and accountability measures.

At a policy level, in addition to an executive order banning "enhanced interrogation techniques" I think it would be advisable to also demand the actual rescinding of the various Executive Orders allowing EITs that were issued by the Bush White House.