SAVE THE DATE:
Join us for Human Rights Day 2013!
|Jump to General Background on Human Rights Day|
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY (Dec. 10)
SHINING A LIGHT ON TORTURE
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) invites you to mark Human Rights Day weekend this December by lifting up the need to shine a light on places where torture might occur in the U.S. Your congregation can use a bulletin insert and worship materials, show a video, or gather signatures for the petition asking the President to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).
Torture happens throughout the world and most countries want it to stop. It is illegal, but that doesn’t prevent it from occurring. Because prisons, jails, immigrant detention facilities, mental health institutions, youth detention facilities, and other places of detention are often not monitored, torture and abuse can occur – often by guards and other employees.
The United States has the same challenge. A Chicago Police Commander tortured people for decades; torture and abuse occurs in solitary confinement in the Pelican Bay supermax prison in California and similar prisons in other states; and rape, sexual and other abuse occur in U.S. immigration detention centers which hold 40,000 people every day.
The United States, which has not yet ratified OPCAT, can learn from the experiences of the 63 nations that have ratified it, including Great Britain, Sweden and Tunisia. OPCAT, which has been effective, sets up oversight bodies and other national mechanisms that prevent torture and abuse in places of confinement.
As people of faith, we have an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves and ensure that no person is tortured or abused.
You are invited to do these three tasks during Human Rights weekend:
- Use worship materials prepared for different faith groups and a bulletin insert. >>Go to the worship materials page.
- Collect signatures on the petition asking the President to sign OPCAT. On November 27, 2012, senior religious leaders had a meeting in the White House to ask the President to sign OPCAT. We want to have 5,000 people of faith sign the NRCAT statement by that meeting. We currently have 3,500 names. To help you collect endorsements, we have a petition-style form for gathering hand written endorsements and a single-page format of the Statement on OPCAT. >>Background information, FAQ, and more information on OPCAT.
- Show the video "Preventing Torture Everywhere," featuring testimony from torture survivors now living in the U.S. >>Watch the video, order the DVD and download resources.
Will your congregation participate? Please tell us what you're planning!
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OPCAT AND HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
1. What is OPCAT?
How can a country make sure that torture and abuse does not go on in its places of confinement?
The 63 nations that have ratified it think that the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) helps solve this problem. OPCAT sets up mechanisms that prevent torture and abuse in any place of confinement including: jails, prisons, mental health facilities, immigration detention centers, detainee centers like Guantanamo, and police stations.
Nations, like Great Britain that have ratified it, have chosen to ensure that torture does not take place in their country. Tunisia ratified it in 2011. After a new government came into power during the Arab spring, it too wanted to prevent torture.
The United States has neither signed nor ratified OPCAT. We need your help to change that and the first step is to urge President Obama to sign OPCAT. >>Go to Background information, FAQ, and more information on OPCAT.
2. Does torture happen in the U.S.?
Unfortunately the answer is yes. Read these brief case examples to see torture and abuse that has happened and in some of the cases, continues.
- Pelican Bay State Prison and Other U.S. Prisons
- The Case of John Burge in Chicago
- Immigration Detention Centers
- Guantanamo Bay Detention Center
3. What is the experience of other nations that have ratified OPCAT?
Read this helpful piece by Stephen Hart called “OPCAT on the Ground: What Difference Does It Make?”
4. What OPCAT is trying to prevent?
Hear the experiences of survivors of torture.
On December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which affirmed this basic tenet of the UN charter. The nations of the world and several faith groups now celebrate December 10 as Human Rights Day. There are 30 short articles in the UDHR. The first article states, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and human rights." The third article adds, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."
Article 5 states clearly, "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." So the prohibition against torture derives from the agreement by the nations in the UN that the principle of honoring the dignity of human beings – a principle shared by all major religions – is an underlying principle for both nations and individuals. Thirty-six years later, on December 10, 1984, the UN General Assembly adopted the text of the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty ratified by the U.S. in 1994. The nations of the world and several faith groups celebrate December 10 as Human Rights Day. December 10, 2013 will be the 65th anniversary of the signing of the UDHR.