We are running out of time. In 2002, the United States began an official policy of torture. It was “legalized,” authorized and ordered at the highest levels of our government.
Torture and conspiracy to torture are federal crimes. 18 U.S.C. Secs. 2340 and 2340A is the federal statute that criminalizes torture. The statute of limitations is eight years, which means that starting some time in 2010, those who conspired to torture in 2002 will no longer be prosecutable under the torture statute.
The evidence that we tortured people is overwhelming. Major General Antonio Taguba wrote in a 2008 preface to a “Physicians for Human Rights” report that “the Commander-in-Chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture.” FBI Guantanamo interrogator, Ali Soufan, reported “borderline torture” to his superiors in Washington. Judge Susan Crawford, the convening authority for the Guantanamo military commissions, said earlier this year, “We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case [for prosecution].” (The Washington Post, January 14, 2009)
Yet not one single person has been charged for these and numerous other crimes. The statute of limitations will soon begin to expire. We will then become a nation that officially sanctions torture.
The Convention Against Torture requires President Obama and Attorney General Holder to investigate allegations where there is a “reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed.” The U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, B. Todd Jones, whose office is on the 6th floor of the U.S. Courthouse in Minneapolis, also has jurisdiction. So far, none of them seems to recognize we are a nation of laws.
This Thursday, Dec. 10, is Human Rights Day. Tackling Torture at the Top, a committee of WAMM, will be protesting the lack of investigation, let alone prosecution, of the torture and conspiracy to torture committed in our names.
This multi-part Demonstration Against Torture will occur at the U.S. Courthouse in Minneapolis, 300 South 4th St. You are welcome to participate in any or all of it.
a) Meet at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Federal Courthouse (300 So Fourth Street, Minneapolis) to obtain leaflets and/or orange jumpsuit/black hood attire and signs if you want. From about 11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., those of us in orange “Close Guantanamo” jumpsuits will individually (or in small groups) walk around the downtown area, with signs and/or leaflets.
b) At 11:45 we will gather back in front of the U.S. Courthouse in a silent protest of the torture committed on detainees around the world and the lack of prosecution for those complicit in this torture. Some people may individually, but not as part of the “Tackling Torture at the Top” group, attempt to wear the black hoods, which are symbolic of what the detainees have been forced to wear. (Note: People have worn such hoods in peaceful protests all across the country, including in front of the White House and at the large march at the start of the RNC in St. Paul, as expressive communication protected by the First Amendment. But Court Security has previously advised that wearing a hood could violate a State anti-mask law or that it could be alarming.)
c) After a short time of silent demonstration (aprox. 30 minutes), some people will attempt to turn themselves in to the federal authorities at the Courthouse for our own complicity in the torture committed in our names. People will describe their confessions to any media outside and hopefully to the authorities inside the U.S. Attorney’s office on the sixth floor.
Orange jumpsuits are available for purchase ($10) or to borrow if you’d like to participate this way in the Human Rights Day demonstration, but feel free to come watch and support in your normal dress too.