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2005 Action of Immediate Witness

The systematic use of torture as a policy of governmental control is a crime against humanity. The right to be free of torture is a fundamental human right recognized in both constitutional and international law and in our social and community values. All government-sponsored acts of torture, regardless of circumstance, are immoral, unjustified, and illegal. United States-sanctioned torture is not justified by national security needs. It engenders hatred against us. It does not keep us safe. Our practice of torture has shamed us and endangers our troops abroad and citizens at home.

Acts of torture violate United States criminal laws, specifically the federal Anti-Torture Statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340 et seq. and the Federal War Crimes Act of 1996. They violate international treaties to which the United States is a party, including the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Two bills crucial to ending such torture practices need our current support: the Convention Against Torture Implementation Act (S. 654), introduced on March 17, 2005, by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and The Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act (H.R. 952), introduced on February 17, 2005, by Representative Edward Markey (D-MA). These bills would expressly ban “torture by proxy,” or extraordinary renditions, which are violations of both international treaties and domestic laws.

No United States policy or official – not the attorney general, not the secretary of defense, not the president – is above the rule of law, including laws against torture. This time-honored principle of respect for law is intended to prevent governmental corruption and the abuse of power.

We, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, firmly reject the use of detention, incarceration, and interrogation techniques by agents of the government of the United States that can be construed in terms of law or common morality as torture and cruel or degrading punishment.

Therefore, the delegates to the 2005 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association call upon our member congregations, affiliate organizations, and individual Unitarian Universalists to support the Call for Justice Weekend in Washington, D.C., on September 24-26, 2005, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee Stop Torture Permanently (STOP) Campaign. Through this mock Citizens' Trial, participants will call on our national leadership to eradicate current torture practices by the United States .

This Citizens' Trial, supported by an interfaith coalition, intends to charge United States secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet, and United States attorney general Alberto Gonzales with aiding, abetting, ordering, and conspiring to commit the illegal physical and psychological torture of detainees in the custody of the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, as well as secret United States-controlled prison facilities elsewhere. This interfaith coalition will also charge these officials with the illegal transport, or extraordinary rendition, of certain detainees to countries known for their systematic torture of prisoners.

It is vital that Unitarian Universalists call or write their United States senators and representatives to support proposed legal restraints and to ban the United States policies and practices of torture through appropriate and immediate legislative restraints.

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