Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a resolution condemning the use of torture and other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment wherever they occur–in the United States and other countries. As the United States has become a safe haven for hundreds of thousands of torture victims, the resolution also expresses support for the victims of these heinous acts. I am pleased that I am joined by my colleagues, Representatives STENY HOYER, BEN CARDIN, and ALCEE HASTINGS, as original cosponsors of the measure. The Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Senator BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, is introducing an identical resolution in the Senate.
Torture remains the weapon of choice of oppressive regimes. In the worst cases, it is systematically used to silence political opposition, punish religious minorities, and target those who are ethnically or racially different from those in power.
It is estimated that some 500,000 torture survivors live in this country alone, most of whom came here as refugees. The debilitating effects of torture often last a lifetime and require substantial medical, psychological and other treatment. Although they are aided by 34 centers in 19 states, the needs of the victims are extensive. I will continue to support funding for torture treatment centers in the United States, as well as foreign treatment centers funded through the U.S. Agency for International Development, and multilateral efforts supported by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. Mr. Speaker, I also want to commend the non-governmental organizations which seek to document this abuse and hold perpetrators accountable.
At the same time, I will be working to ensure that the United States continues to play a leadership role in the battle against torture by signaling our unwavering condemnation of this egregious practice. It is particularly important that we send that message now, when irresponsible voices are suggesting that torture may be a necessary tool against terror. Torture creates terror. That is its purpose, and it makes no sense to wage war to defend our great democratic republic and respect for the rule of law and use methods that denigrate the very values we seek to protect. Torture is unconstitutional, barred by the laws of the United States and the laws of all civilized nations.
The resolution that Sen. CAMPBELL and I are introducing underscores that message. It recognizes the United Nations International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture–June 26 each year–and encourages the training of law enforcement personnel who are involved in the custody, interrogation, or treatment of any individual who is arrested, detained, or imprisoned, with the hope of preventing the use of this practice. The resolution also calls on the Secretary of State to seek, at relevant international fora, the adoption of an agreement to treat confessions and other evidence obtained through torture or other forms of cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment, as inadmissible in any legal proceeding; and to prohibit, in law and in practice, incommunicado detention of prisoners.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this resolution and giving it timely consideration.