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Conference Report on H.R. 1268, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, The Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief Act, 2005

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, when the House debated this legislation in March, it voted 420-2 to approve an amendment, which I authored, which reaffirms the U.S. commitment under the Convention Against Torture to not engage in torture, and to not render or transfer people to countries where they are likely to face torture. The U.S. signed this treaty under President Reagan, and the Senate ratified it in 1994.

Despite our commitments under this treaty and the recent statements made by the Bush Administration emphasizing that the U.S. is emphatically and unambiguously against the use of torture, there have been repeated reports in the press indicating that the U.S. has been sending detainees to countries where they are likely to face torture, including to countries who have become notorious for their human rights violations.

The practice of extraordinary rendition is shrouded in secrecy. An unmarked plane arrives in the middle of the night carrying men wearing plain clothes and black hoods, to take custody of the prisoners, cut off their clothes, drug them on the spot, shackle them, and fly off into the night. President Bush signed a secret directive reported to speed up the process by eliminating the case by case evaluation. And while unofficial estimates put the number of renditions since 9/11 to be between 100 and 150, the actual number of renditions remains a secret.

The Administration maintains that it is in full compliance with the Convention Against Torture. Compliance, they say, is guaranteed by the dubious practice of asking countries known to torture prisoners for ``promises'' that they will not torture our prisoners. These so-called ``diplomatic assurances'' then provide the cover for sending a suspect to that country to undergo interrogation.

The list of countries where the detainees have been rendered includes Syria, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

So here is the sand on which the Administration stands--at the same time that we exhort the international community to isolate Syria for thumbing its nose at U.N. resolutions to get out of Lebanon, the United States has apparently been willing to accept Syrian promises that it will comply with the Convention Against Torture.

Here is what the State Department's annual human rights report says about Syria's methods of interrogation: ``administering electrical shocks, pulling out fingernails, forcing objects into the rectum, .....'' And the list goes on.

How about Uzbekistan?--``suffocation, electric shock, rape, beatings, and boiling prisoners to death . . .'' And the list goes on.

The so-called ``diplomatic assurances'' that we have received from the torturers that they will not torture those we send them are not credible, and the Administration knows it. CIA Director Porter Goss basically acknowledged as much when he stated: ``But of course once they're out of our control, there's only so much we can do.'' Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confirmed this, when he said ``Once someone is rendered, we can't fully control what that country might do.''

Section 1031 of the conference report would prohibit the use of any funds included in this Supplemental appropriations bill to subject any person in custody or under the control of the United States to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. While the Conferees approved Senate language that is slightly different from that of the House-passed amendment, I am nevertheless supportive of this language. I support it because I read Section 1031 to clearly prohibit any appropriated funds from being spent to subject any person in U.S. custody or control to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by transferring, extraditing, or rendering such persons to countries where they are likely to face torture.

This is because such actions clearly would be prohibited under Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture, a treaty signed and ratified by the United States. Article 3 of the Convention clearly states that:

``No State Party shall expel, return (``refouler'') or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.''

Article 3 of the Convention further states that:

``For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations, including, where applicable, the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant, or mass violations of human rights.''

It would be my expectation that the funding limitation contained in Section 1031 would therefore prohibit funds from being used to transfer persons to any Nation where the person was likely to face torture, and that under Section 1031, funds could not be used for transfers or renditions in situations where the U.S. government had found there to be a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant, or mass violations of human rights. I would also note that in a September 2004 report to the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture expressed concern that reliance on diplomatic assurances is a ``practice that is increasingly undermining the principle of non-refoulement'' and observed that where torture is systematic, ``the principal of non-refoulement must be strictly observed and diplomatic assurances should not be resorted to.''

We take pride that even as our Nation fought for its survival against the Nazis and the Japanese Empire during World War II, that we did not ask our ``Greatest Generation'' to engage in torture or other war crimes. The legacy of the U.S. then, and now as we prosecute the War on Terror, is that we uphold our commitment to justice--even in the face of shadows of terror and war. The test of a Nation is found as much in how it wages war as in how it promotes the values of peace and democracy. That is what we must do today.

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