In 1997, the United Nations decided to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by declaring June 26 the International Day of Support of Victims of Torture.
In 1988, President Ronald Regan signed the UN Convention Against Torture, which includes the commitment that, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, international political instability or any other public emergency may be invoked as justification for torture.” The U.S. Senate ratified the Convention in 1994.
Unfortunately, after 9/11, the U.S. government turned its back on the UN Convention—as well as the Geneva Conventions and on our own 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In the name of the war on terrorism, CIA and military interrogators tortured 9/11 detainees using “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The infamous photos from Abu Ghraib and the release of tens of thousands of pages of formerly-secret government documents prove that the government violated America’s principles and promises by torturing human beings. These actions were both immoral and illegal. To date, both the White House and Congress have refused to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry, and the full extent of the torture program has yet to be revealed.
Torture Awareness Month is a coordinated effort by NRCAT and allied organizations in the human rights community to ensure that we, as a nation, take the time to honor the courage and struggle of torture survivors from around the world, and to organize a variety of effort to ensure that Americans are aware that U.S.-sponsored torture is a wrong that must be righted. Through vigils, letters-to-editor campaigns, programs in congregations and other activities, we aim to raise the nation’s consciousness about torture as a moral issue that must be addressed in public policy. In 2012, NRCAT’s goals for Torture Awareness Month are to mobilize Americans of all faiths to:
Get involved in Torture Awareness Month and support our overall goal of ending torture in American policy, practice and culture. We have activities and resources of congregations and ways for individuals to bear public witness in June.
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