Public Policy/Advocacy

Statement on Torture

Approved June 2007

WHEREAS over the past 32 months, documentary and photographic evidence of widespread physical and psychological torture and abuse of prisoners in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba, at the hands of U.S. Military and U.S. Intelligence personnel and subcontractors has appeared; and

WHEREAS at least 98 prisoners have died while in custody of U.S. Military and U.S. Intelligence personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 45 suspected or confirmed homicides; and

WHEREAS Moazzam Begg, Asef Iqbal, Shafik Rasul, Ruhal Ahmed, and others have alleged that they were tortured and abused by U.S. Military or U.S. Intelligence personnel while imprisoned in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba, and detention centers in the U.S.; and

WHEREAS the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has assembled an overseas network of secret prisons not accessible by the International Committee of the Red Cross or by other international bodies charged with monitoring compliance with the U.N. Convention Against Torture; and

WHEREAS U.S. Central Intelligence Agency personnel and subcontractors have used “waterboarding” (in which the prisoner is made to believe he is drowning) and other techniques violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture; and

WHEREAS the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has, since the early 1990s, been abducting foreign nationals for detention and interrogation as part of an “extraordinary rendition” program which violates the U.N. Convention Against Torture; and

WHEREAS the U.S. Government has, since 1988, attempted to substitute its own legal definition of torture excluding sensory deprivation, self-inflicted pain, disorientation, and other forms of severe psychological abuse; and

WHEREAS in September 2006 the U.S. Congress passed into law the Military Commissions Act, which includes provisions that would in many cases grant retroactive immunity for government officials who authorized or ordered illegal acts of torture or abuse;

Be it moved that the American Anthropological Association unequivocally condemns the use of anthropological knowledge as an element of physical and psychological torture; condemns the use of physical and psychological torture by U.S. Military and Intelligence personnel, subcontractors, and proxies; and urges the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush to:

Comply fully with national and international anti-torture laws, including the Geneva Conventions and protocols, the U.N. Convention Against Torture, the 1996 U.S. War Crimes Act, and U.S. Criminal Code, Sections 2340-2340A; and

Ban all interrogation techniques—including physical and psychological torture—that violate the broad universal humanitarian standard outlined in the U.N. Convention Against Torture; and

Repudiate any attempts by any U.S. Government official to substitute any definition of torture for that broad universal humanitarian standard; and

Comply fully with the U.S. Supreme Court's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision of 2006, in which the majority opinion states that even during times of war, “the Executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law”; and

Repeal the 2006 U.S. Military Commissions Act; and

Terminate the “extraordinary rendition” program and halt the transfer of detainees to countries with a history of prisoner abuse and torture; and

Close all U.S. overseas prisons and release all prisoners being held without charge in U.S. prisons (including overseas prisons); and

Release the names of all prisoners being held in U.S. prisons (including all overseas prisons); and

Pay reparations to all victims who have suffered physical or psychological torture at the hands of U.S. Military and Intelligence personnel, subcontractors, and proxies; and

Grant the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international monitoring agencies full access to all U.S. overseas prisons; and

Prosecute all individuals—including current and former Bush administration officials—who have authorized or committed war crimes or who have violated laws prohibiting torture.

Prepared by:

Roberto J. González
Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA 95192-0113
Kanhong Lin
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
American University
Washington, DC