NRCAT's 2010 Agenda

NRCAT will have three areas of work in 2010 as we carry out our mission to end forever torture that is sponsored or enabled by the United States:

  • Torture of post-9/11 detainees;
  • Torture in U.S. prisons;
  • U.S. policies and practices that affect the use of torture by other governments.

For all three areas of work, NRCAT will seek to increase the number of people in the U.S. who believe that torture is always wrong - without exception. To accomplish this goal, NRCAT will:

  • Urge congregations to use faith-based study materials from NRCAT and other sources;
  • Recruit 300 congregations in 30 states to screen the video “Ending U.S-sponsored Torture Forever” and to use the accompanying discussion guides;
  • Work closely with national faith group bodies, state interfaith and ecumenical bodies and other regional bodies to reach congregations on these issues. This effort will include reaching out to those communities of faith most directly affected by the U.S. prison system in order to strengthen our voice on this issue;
  • Sponsor public events, including local programs and conferences, and coordinate national days of witness; and
  • Encourage media coverage generated nationally, regionally and locally about all three areas of NRCAT’s work.
The following tasks will be addressed in each of the three areas of work:
President Obama issued an Executive Order on January 22, 2009 halting torture. Yet there is still more to be learned and much more to be done to ensure that the necessary safeguards are in place to end permanently U.S.-sponsored torture.
1. Secure an independent Commission of Inquiry that will investigate the torture policies and practices of the U.S. government since September 11, 2001 and make recommendations about safeguards that are needed to assure that it will not happen again.
NRCAT will pursue three strategies to establish a Commission of Inquiry:
  • Continue to advocate for a Commission of Inquiry.
• Continue to advocate for a House Select Committee on Detention and Interrogations.
• Work to establish a privately funded Independent Panel on Detention and Torture.
2. Secure Changes in Administrative Policy:
  Remove Appendix M of the Army Field Manual (AFM). Appendix M allows for the use of prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, and sleep deprivation.
  Expand the criminal investigation. It is clear that more people broke the laws against torture than just those currently being investigated. NRCAT will continue to encourage Attorney General Holder to expand the criminal investigation into the use of torture to include all persons who ordered the use of abusive techniques, including any lawyers who may have intentionally provided misleading or improper interpretations of the laws prohibiting torture.
checkmark Release the Office of Professional Responsibility report. The original report is said to describe how Department of Justice lawyers misinterpreted the law to provide a justification for the use of torture. The report was released on February 19, 2010.
  Close the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay. The Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay is a symbol of our country’s use of torture and a violation of our country’s deepest values.
3. Codify the elements of the Executive Order and other important anti-torture provisions into law.
  The “Golden Rule”: Congress should pass legislation that creates one national standard for interrogation that requires the President to affirm publicly that every interrogation technique authorized for use by American interrogators would be both moral and ethical if used upon a captured American.
  ICRC Access: President Obama has ordered that the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed access to all detainees. Congress should codify this requirement into law.
  Videotaping Interrogations: Congress should require that all interrogations of detainees by the CIA be videotaped. (Legislation, which NRCAT advocated, requiring the videotaping of interrogations by the military was enacted in 2009.)
  Ending Transfers to Countries Where Torture is Likely: Congress should pass legislation ensuring that no person will be transferred to another country where the person would be at risk of being tortured.
  The Torture Victims Relief Act: Congress should pass H.R. 1511, the Torture Victims Relief Act (TVRA). TVRA authorizes funding for domestic and international torture treatment centers to help torture survivors rebuild productive and meaningful lives.
The goal of this project will be to end torture in U.S. prisons by ending the use of long-term isolation and devices of torture. In particular, NRCAT will work to:  
1. Pass federal legislation that will end torture in U.S. prisons. 
  • Urge ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) which requires outside inspections of prisons, police stations and other places where torture might take place. Promoting OPCAT is also a task of NRCAT’s advocacy for U.S. policies and practices that help end torture by other governments.
  • Pass the Prison Abuse Remedies Act (PARA) to reform the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) in order to remove unreasonable barriers to prisoners’ ability to challenge torture and abuse.
  • Advocate for other legislation designed to end torture in U.S. prisons.
2. Pass legislation in particular states that will end torture in U.S. state prisons. 
NRCAT is working in the state of Maine to help pass legislation that would prevent people with mental illness from being placed in solitary confinement, limit the amount of time that any prisoner can spend in isolation and eliminating various devices of torture. NRCAT will help to organize similar efforts in other states. 
3. Change the implementation of existing laws:  
NRCAT will work to secure changes in the ways the U.S. government and particular states implement existing laws that affect torture in prisons by influencing the appropriate agencies and the Executive Branch of the federal government and particular state governments. At the federal level, this effort will include advocating with the National Institute of Corrections. 
Torture is widely practiced by governments across the globe despite prohibitions found in international and national laws. The United States government can use its resource to encourage other countries to reject the use of torture. NRCAT will: 
1. Seek the creation of a “Torture Watch List,” either through the Department of State or through legislation, and use it to encourage the U.S. Government to take additional action to end torture in those countries.

The list will be drawn from information provided in the annual State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and other sources. NRCAT will urge the Administration to use diplomatic means to prevent torture by the countries on the list.
2. Pass legislation that provides incentives to foreign governments that are making significant efforts to end torture in their countries.
  • Add provisions to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act that offer positive incentives, including assistance for initiatives by foreign governments to end torture.
  • Monitor the implementation of the Leahy Law barring military aid to governments that systematically torture.
3. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) to ensure U.S. involvement in efforts to end torture worldwide. Work on OPCAT is also a task of NRCAT’s effort to end torture in U.S. prisons. 
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