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Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Chairman
Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
June 26, 2008


(Washington, DC) Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Co-Chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), made the following statement marking the 11th Anniversary of the United Nations (UN) International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. The day was declared by the UN General Assembly on December 12, 1997 to be observed on 26 June every year:

“In the United Nations Convention against Torture, signed by President Ronald Reagan, the United States agreed that ‘No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture,’” said Chairman Hastings. “There were no loopholes, no exceptions. It is time for the United States to stand by that treaty commitment and to stop trying to redefine ‘torture’ as ‘not torture.’ We must also ensure that evidence obtained through torture or other forms of prohibited abuse is not used in trials of any kind.”

“I have seen the pernicious effects of torture in many places around the world. Torture breaks the human spirit and robs men, women and children of their human dignity,” said Co-Chairman Cardin. “Regrettably, over the past seven years, this administration has fostered the insidious myth that torture is an effective means of gathering reliable information from detainees. It is not,” Cardin continued. “As one who has advocated for human rights for decades, I know the damage that has been done to the moral leadership of the United States. I look forward to working with a new administration that will strive to undo that damage, and I will do everything I can to ensure that torture is prohibited in law and in practice, in word and in deed. The fight against global terrorism is a battle we will be waging for a long time – and we have to get it right.”

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.
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