HELSINKI COMMISSION CHAIRMAN HASTINGS COMMENTS ON U.S. POLICY ON TORTURE AND INTERROGATION
(Washington, D.C.) Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement about the film Taxi to the Dark Side. The film, which has only been shown in a limited number of theaters and has not yet been aired on television or been released for rent was shown at an event sponsored by the Helsinki Commission.
Directed by Alex Gibney, the film won the 2008 Oscar for “Best Documentary Feature.” Taxi to the Dark Side is the profoundly disturbing and tragic story of Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver and father of two, who was falsely accused of a rocket attack against U.S. forces in 2002, detained at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, tortured, and ultimately murdered. Dilawar died alone and humiliated, shackled by his wrists to the ceiling of his cell:
“The U.S. Helsinki Commission is very grateful to Mr. Gibney and to his film company, THINKfilm, for allowing us to present this movie on Capitol Hill.
“Mr. Gibney’s late-father gave him the encouragement to work on this film. His father had been a naval interrogator during World War II and, in that capacity, interrogated captured kamikaze pilots. In other words, this was a man who knew something about suicide bombers.
“The film is about the gripping telling of one man’s life and death: Dilawar, an innocent taxi driver, in the wrong place at the wrong time; captured by American forces, held at Bagram Air Force Base, and ultimately tortured to death. More than that, Dilawar’s story reveals what really happened when this administration decided to “take off the gloves.”
“In fact, as Human Rights First reported in 2006, nearly 100 persons held as security detainees have died in U.S. custody since August 2002. At least 34 are confirmed or suspected homicides. At least 8 were tortured to death.
“The tragic and senseless murder of Dilawar, and other cases like his, leaves us with several lessons.
“First, we must ensure that the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to the security detainees we hold. That access helps protect detainees from mistreatment – and sets a standard we want respected for our own troops.
“Second, mistakes can be and were made. In Dilawar’s case, an innocent man was detained and interrogated – and ultimately murdered. That’s why we need to restore habeas corpus for the detainees we are currently holding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and ensure a fair and meaningful trial process for those we seek to charge with terrorism, war crimes, or other serious offenses.
“Third, evidence obtained through torture or abuse must be fully excluded from any trials we hold.
“Finally, immunity is a cancer that leads to impunity. The provisions of the Military Commissions Act, which protect those who have committed abuse are a disgrace to this country and should be repealed.
“With that, I will let the film speak for itself.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.