This past week, the United Nations Convention Against Torture met and examined President George W. Bush and President Obama’s track records on cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The panel that monitors compliance with an international anti-torture was critical of the treatment of prisoners currently being held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. They questioned the United States delegation on practices such as the four-hour minimum sleep standards that could lead to unnecessary sleep deprivation, according to a New York Times report from last week.
This weekend, our second class our joint Malaria Fellowship with the United Nations Foundation will come to DC to learn about malaria and advocate on Capitol Hill. Fellows will return to campus with tools to raise awareness and funds and begin their advocacy push with letters and calls to Congress, making sure our Representatives continue to fully fund anti-malaria initiatives. Throughout the year, our fellows will build out a core group of students and organizations to help save lives from malaria.
By Leah Citrin
In the last several weeks, considerable press time has been spent covering the humanitarian crisis taking place at the U.S.-Mexico border. A surge in unaccompanied minors from Central America has spurred much discussion and debate about the best way to address the fact that to date, 58,000 undocumented and unaccompanied minors have entered the United States. This number is more than double the 24,500 unaccompanied minors who entered the United States in 2013.
As many already know, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has completed a comprehensive investigation on the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques after 9/11. The committee decided by an 11 to 3 bipartisan vote to make the 500 page executive summary and conclusions of the report available to the public.
At this point in the process, the CIA is completing their redactions to the report. Redactions are a necessary piece of this process. While I hope that as little as possible is redacted, I understand specific names and locations will need to be redacted for national security reasons, as well as the safety of the agents and their families. Redactions beyond those absolutely needed for the safety of this country however hurt more than they help. This report provides a great opportunity for public debate, the foundation of our democracy. The more that is redacted the less information the public and our leaders will have to use in a thorough and meaningful public debate. Furthermore, redacting the truth of the extent and specifics of torture will leave much to the imagination, leaving the opportunity for the public to assume the worst. Instead, admitting to the human rights violations this country has committed in the past, will allow us to better safeguard against similar crimes being committed again. Rev. Ron Stief, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture has stated that, ”Admitting the truth about the United States’past is the first step toward redemption.” Read more…
Last Thursday, Rabbi David Saperstein joined a delegation of religious leaders in meeting with Sudan’s Ambassador to the United States, Maowia Khalid. The meeting came shortly after a Sudanese court sentenced Meriam Ibrahim to death for allegedly converting to Christianity. In response to her sentence, Rabbi David Saperstein issued a statement, in which he said: Read more…
Although the 2013-14 L’Taken season is over, I want to reflect on my experience working with high school students on issues of torture and indefinite detention as we prepare to commemorate Torture Awareness Month.
Nearly 300 students participate in each of the six L’Taken weekends, and I had the privilege of teaching a program on issues related to the War on Terror to about 35 of them each weekend. Although these students and I are not that far apart in age, we did grow up in two very different worlds in terms of these topics, which is why it is so important to approach any conversation regarding torture – in particular – with a sense of how an individual might view the world. I am comfortable sharing with the students that I was 10 years old on September 11, 2001, and that I was in Lower Manhattan (in school just a few blocks away from the Twin Towers) on that day. That experience, and the aftermath, has shaped my views and sharpened my sensitivity to the importance of human dignity: ending the use of torture, better sensitivity to language that can be hurtful and hateful, and using our traditions – governmental, religious – to further these agenda.
Rabbi David Saperstein’s statement on the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria was quoted in the Jerusalem Post. You can read the full article here.
Several weeks ago, Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group whose name means “Western education is sinful” operating in Nigeria, kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from their school. To date, most of the girls are still missing. The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, released a video in which he stated that he planned to sell the young women. Read more…
It has been a long time since I last wrote about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. In recent weeks, the major civil liberties focus has been the Senate Intelligence Committee’s vote to release the report on the CIA’s use of torture. But now, as Congress begins work anew on the FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, provisions related to Guantanamo and efforts to close it have been reignited.
Last year’s NDAA included language that lifted a ban on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to another country, although bans on transfers to the United States for trial in federal court or emergency medical care remains. The NDAA is an important opportunity to further efforts to close Guantanamo Bay.