On June 6, KARAMAH, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Constitution Project, and the Qurtuba Institute hosted a special program at the ADAMS Center titled Exposing the Truth of U.S. Torture: Restoring Human Dignity. The program featured three speakers: Dr. Azizah al-Hibri, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, and Reverend Ron Stief. Both Dr. al-Hibri and Ambassador Pickering served on the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment.
Dr. al-Hibri, who is the Chair and founder of KARAMAH, spoke first. She talked about the origins of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment and that its conclusion was that United States had indisputably engaged in torture. Dr. al-Hibri also pointed out that national security officials engaged in falsified renditions resulting in many detainees enduring torture without ever being charged or found responsible for a crime. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. al-Hibri challenged the audience to take action by electing individuals who do not condone torture.
The second speaker was Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who, over five decades, served the U.S. in key diplomatic positions such as Ambassador to to the United Nations, the Soviet Union, and Israel. Ambassador Pickering reinforced Dr. al-Hibri’s main points and added numerous salient arguments against torture. Most notably, Ambassador Pickering pointed out that information procured through torture is highly unreliable and that for the U.S. to maintain its identity, trials of terror suspects and other detainees must be in accordance with U.S. civil and criminal legal rules.
Reverend Stief was the third and final speaker. Reverend Stief is the Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He focused on a couple of key questions, such as why there is torture and whether torture was ever justified. Reverend Stief concluded that post-9/11 fear has created an environment that allows human rights violations like racial profiling and torture. He pointed out that many people in the U.S. support torture, and that torture would not cease unless we changed the ethical and moral paradigm on these issues. Although Reverend Stief briefly discussed how some justify torture under special circumstances, he concluded that torture can never be justified.
You can view the panel below.