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ACTION ALERT: Closing Guantanamo; Ending Torture


November 16, 2008
Human Rights First & Amnesty International & Virginia School of Law

More than 65,000 people joined Human Rights First's call on the presidential candidates to declare that they would end torture. We won: President-elect Obama has clearly and repeatedly stated his opposition to torture. Amnesty International has set a human rights challenge to President Obama for his first 100 Days in office to set a closing date for Guantanamo Prison, issue an executive order banning torture and ensuring accountability for human rights violators.

http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/blog/torture/2008/11/today-we-have-more-hope.html

Today We Have More Hope
Human Rights First

(November 15, 2008) — November 4th was an epochal day for Americans. As I watched President-elect Obama’s acceptance speech, I felt tremendous hope. Now our job together is to turn that hope into progress. With President-Elect Obama and his transition team quickly organizing strategies to implement the promise of change,

HRF is ready to help. We have converted our ambitious agenda into a series of policy blueprints that lay out concrete steps to restore America’s More than 65,000 people joined us in calling on the presidential candidates to declare that they would end torture by anyone working on behalf of the United States. We won: President-elect Obama has clearly and repeatedly stated his opposition to torture. Now HRF's End Torture campaign turns its efforts to making sure that torture is ended, not just in word but in deed.

HRF's blueprint on how to end torture is already in President-elect Obama's hands. Starting with the transition and into the early days of the new administration, we will work to ensure that U.S. interrogation policy protects our military personnel and honors the rule of law.

The exceptional group of retired military leaders that has worked with us these past, hard years has told us they won't let up until the job is finished. They will continue to travel the country with us to educate the public, Congress, and the media on interrogation and prisoner treatment policies. Read about our most recent event at University of Virginia law school!



100 Day Campaign to Close Guantanamo
Larry Cox / Amnesty International

Last week's ground-breaking election gives us a historic opportunity to finally close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and end the use of torture by US officials. Support our 100 Days Campaign today!

Following last week's ground-breaking election of a new president, we have a historic opportunity for change. When Barack Obama takes office on January 20th, he will hold the power to immediately undo some of the worst human rights violations committed under “war on terror” and firmly establish the U.S. government's renewed commitment to, and leadership on, human rights.

That's why we've set a human rights challenge to President Obama for his first 100 Days in office. We're calling on him to:

• Announce a plan and date for closing down the prison at Guantánamo Bay;
• Issue an executive order banning the use of torture and other ill-treatment as defined under international law, and;
• Ensure accountability for human rights abuses.

Help Amnesty International seize this historic moment by making a financial contribution to our “100 Days” Campaign today.

You and I have worked long and hard to reverse the Bush Administration's disastrous record on human rights. But we must also resolve not to let this precious opportunity pass without real progress. Real change is within our grasp, and this is no time to take our foot off of the gas pedal. Please make a tax-deductible gift to our “100 Days” Campaign today.

In the months ahead, there is so much that needs to be done – and even more that needs to be undone. And while the mandate for change in Washington is clear, victory for the principles we hold dear is far from assured. But if each of us does a small part, we can use the power of our collective action to ensure that President Obama restores the U.S. government's commitment to human rights.

Let's make one thing clear to the newcomers in Washington: There can be no genuine renewal in America without a renewed commitment to human rights.

Your gift today will help Amnesty International mount the strongest offensive possible at this critical time—to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and end the use of torture and other ill-treatment by U.S. officials—once and for all.

I'm really counting on your energy, passion and commitment as we begin this new challenge together.

Larry Cox is Executive Director, Amnesty International


Retired Generals Condemn Use of Torture
Prashanth Parameswaran / Virginia School of Law

(October 27, 2008) — At a Law School forum Thursday, two retired three-star generals voiced outrage over the use of torture in Afghanistan and Iraq and called for national leadership to address the issue.

Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Lt. Gen Charles Otstott, former deputy chairman of the NATO Committee, dismissed torture as an ineffective technique that undermines the United States' image and values.

"It doesn't matter what they do, it’s what we do. We don't lower ourselves to the level of this terrible enemy we are fighting. It's about what our standards are," Soyster told an audience in Caplin Pavilion.

The two are part of a group of retired generals and admirals fighting for the adoption of prisoner treatment standards consistent with international law in the wake of abusive detainee treatment in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Torture is prohibited under the Geneva Convention and the U.N. Convention Against Torture. The Bush administration has penned several memos to tweak the definition and application of interrogation and detention methods, citing the different kind of enemy it faces in the war on terrorism.

But the generals said the definition of torture was based on the timeless "golden rule" of treating others as you wish to be treated.

"The rules are the same, and should be the same. All the Machiavellian work that has been done to get around those rules is detestable, and I can't believe we are doing that as an official policy in the United States of America," Otstott said.

Both men said intelligence from torture is unreliable since detainees were prepared to say almost anything under agonizing conditions. They also warned against justifying a national policy based on the few times it worked rather than the principle behind it.

"I would not sit here and tell you that torture has not caused somebody to provide information. But what we're talking about is policy at the highest level. You don't make policy based on the exception, you make policy based on the norm that you expect," Soyster said.

Soyster also stressed the importance of training interrogators to extract intelligence from detainees legally using the standards set out in the U.S Army Field Manual. He recounted a story about his friend, skilled army interrogator Stuart Harrington, who was interrogating a high-level Al-Qaeda detainee. Soyster said Harrington identified a key weakness the suspect had for his sister's safety and manipulated it to gain information.

"That's what a good interrogator is able to do. You get a lot of good results by using good interrogation and getting into the mind of the guy you are trying to get information from," Soyster added.

The two military leaders also emphasized the need for good leadership at the top in order to provide better guidance for troops. Both said the next president, as commander in chief, should be wary of rattling political slogans such as "I will do anything to defend this country," as they may translate to unlawful excesses on the ground.

As an example of good leadership, Otstott quoted May 10, 2007, letter by Gen. David Petraeus, the commanding general of the Multi-National Force in Iraq. The letter read: "Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they are also frequently neither useful nor necessary."

Otstott said that this was "exactly the kind of guidance that I would want to have if I was a commander ... I can look at this and I can say: 'That's my marching orders right there. I can live with that.'"

Soyster and Otstott's group of about 40 retired generals and admirals was organized by Human Rights First, a nonprofit international human rights organization that strives to advance universal rights and freedoms. The group has traveled around the country to universities, editorial boards, Congress and even both political party national conventions to meet with presidential candidates, with the goal of educating the public.

"Where this technique does work is on ‘24,’ once a week or whatever," Soyster said, referring to the award-winning drama series on counterterrorism. "We want to get the discussion above that."

The forum was sponsored by the Law School Human Rights Program, the Center for National Security Law, Virginia Law Veterans, the J.B. Moore Society of International Law, the Virginia Journal of International Law and Human Rights First. Law School Professor Barbara E. Armacost moderated the discussion.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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