Thursday, October 05, 2006

AI Response to Torture Legislation

It’s a sad day for America and a very disappointing outcome for those of us who devote ourselves to advancing the global cause of human rights.

Yesterday, the Senate joined the House in approving an ill-considered and sweeping piece of legislation, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, that discards key human rights protections – and our best American traditions.

This could have been a proud moment for America. Congress had the opportunity to correct the Bush administration’s profoundly disturbing human rights policies.
This was an opportunity for Congress to advance the America you and I believe in.They failed to do so. In effect, they gave their stamp of approval to human rights violations. In the face of this set back, you and I must commit ourselves to working as long as it takes until we reverse the damage done yesterday to the cause of human rights.

Our representatives in Congress have just passed legislation that:

Establishes a new judicial system to try a wide variety of people in military commissions that lack the minimal safeguards regarding coerced evidence may deny the right of the accused to examine evidence against them. A person could be sentenced to death under this flawed system.

Strips prisoners in Guantanamo – and other alleged “enemy combatants” in U.S. custody -- of the ability to file a writ of habeas corpus and challenge their detention. Many of these prisoners have been held for almost five years without charges or meaningful judicial review

Expands the definition of ‘unlawful enemy combatant” to allow the U.S. government to detain people – on or off the battlefield – indefinitely without charge or access to judicial review for an act as minor as writing a check.

Provides retroactive immunity to those who may have been implicated in creating policies or participating in abuse and other acts that most of us would consider torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

We appreciate the efforts of the members of Congress who voted against this legislation and in favor of human rights, the rule of law, and our standing in the international community. They took a principled stand. The first thing that we should do is thank the leaders who stood up for the America we believe in.
In the days ahead, Amnesty International will focus on holding the administration accountable for upholding its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law - and also for fulfilling the expectations of Americans like you and me who believe the America leads the world on human rights.

I know you will stand with us for as long as it takes to prevail.

Thank you,
Larry Cox

Executive Director
Amnesty International USA

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