FREE SPEECH ZONE | Ellison, Franken support accountability for U.S.-committed torture

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Minnesota has long been a center for human rights advocates. From Hubert Humphrey’s 1948 speech on civil rights, to Harold Stassen’s drafting of the U.N. Charter, to Don Fraser’s authoring the legislation creating the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights, to U of M Law Professor David Weissbrodt’s too-numerous to list contributions to human rights advocacy and institutions, to world-renowned entities like the Center for Victims of Torture, Advocates for Human Rights, and the American Refugee Committee, Minnesota is a state the nation looks to for leadership on human rights issues.

In that spirit and to commemorate the August 1 10-year anniversary of the John Yoo/Jay Bybee torture memos, which “legalized” torture on behalf of the United States, both Representative Keith Ellison and Senator Al Franken have issued statements and posted them on their websites. In addition, at an Amnesty International/Women Against Military Madness event on August 13, Rep. Ellison spoke out strongly in support of accountability for those responsible for the U.S. torture program.

I would be surprised if two of the other 533 members of Congress issued similar statements on this occasion. We are lucky to live in a state with such representation. But because of that, we also have an added responsibility to make sure the words of their statements are not just words, and to ensure that our nation moves toward the path of accountability, whatever form that may take.

Senator John McCain was on to something when he said about torture, “It’s not about them; it’s about us.” Accountability too is about us, who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation, more than it is about those who designed, authorized, ordered, “legalized” and committed torture in our names. It appears we Minnesotans have a Representative and a Senator who agree with that sentiment.

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