Tell the President: Sign the Optional Protocols to the Convention Against Torture
The United States signed the International Convention Against Torture in 1998 and ratified it in 1994. Ratifying the convention, which bans torture, cruelty and inhumane treatment, was an important step toward protecting the human dignity of those in U.S. custody. However, the Convention is just a promise lacking any means of accountability. By signing the treaty the U.S. proclaimed that it would end torture in its custody, but provided no mechanisms for pursuing that goal or measuring its progress.
There is, however, a follow up treaty known as the Optional Protocols to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), which seeks to add a national and international oversight mechanism to ensure that the Convention Against Torture is followed. Sixty three countries including the United Kingdom, Germany and Mexico have signed and ratified OPCAT. These countries have committed to developing a national system of monitoring and improving the treatment of detainees in their custody. Furthermore they have agreed to cooperate with an international monitoring body to ensure these goals are realized.
The long work of eradicating torture in these countries is just beginning, but they have made an important first step – a step critical for the United States to undertake. The United States has the largest number of incarcerated people in the world. There has been a growing concern about the treatment of prisoners in solitary confinement, especially of youth and the mentally ill. New stories continue to break about the abhorrent treatment of prisoners in the prison in Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. military prisons around the world. Ratifying OPCAT would be an important move toward fulfilling America’s promise of humane treatment and dignity for all.
The Religious Action Center has partnered with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture to send a message to President Obama: Sign OPCAT and send it to the Senate for ratification! Add your voice to this important call by signing our petition demanding action from the President. Torture is a moral issue and ensuring the humane treatment of all detainees speaks directly to the convictions proclaimed in our Jewish texts, and echoed across many other faith traditions. As Stephen Hart of NRCAT has written, “Regardless of whether people are rightly or wrongly detained, they are children of God, with the same capacity for suffering as any of us. They have the same right to be free of torture and cruel or degrading treatment as people who are free. Their risk of ill-treatment, however, is much greater, since once detained they are powerless and largely invisible. OPCAT is a practical way to ensure that their human rights are respected.”
Demand the President give his name to supporting OPCAT and abolishing torture in U.S. custody by signing your name on our petition.
Image courtesy of nrcat.org