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Dear U.S.: Appointing A Torture Supporter To Lead Human Rights Policy Is A Horrifying Idea

President Donald Trump has nominated Marshall Billingslea, a man who openly advocated for the use of torture, to lead the human rights policy of the United States. This is deeply wrong in principle, and in practice puts both victims of torture and those defending them at increased risk.

The undersigned, members of the global SOS-Torture Network of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), urge U.S. senators to reject Billingslea's confirmation.

As an official in the George W. Bush administration, and a member of what has been referred to as the "torture team," Billingslea showed a particular zeal in promoting interrogation methods amounting to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

He did so not only in violation of the absolute prohibition of torture enshrined in various international treaties to which the U.S. is a party, but even, at times, despite protests from high-ranking U.S. military lawyers.

One well-documented example is that of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay from 2002 until his release in 2016, whose mental health was so affected by the treatment he suffered following Billingslea's recommendations that he had started hearing voices.

The Marine officer in charge of Slahi's prosecution resigned rather than support court proceedings based on confessions extracted under torture.

If a man with such a track record was to become Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, it would be a slap in the face of countless torture victims throughout the world - men, women and yes, children, who have survived the unspeakable.

We work with these survivors every day, or with the families of those who never came back alive from police stations, prisons or other places where authoritarian regimes routinely break bodies and minds. We do our best to help them rebuild their lives and, when they so wish, seek justice. Many among us carry out this work at great personal risk. A risk that has steadily increased over the past years, as autocrats worldwide feel emboldened to break the law with impunity.

Civilian security, democracy and human rights are all premised on the rule of law. The absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as accountability and justice, are its foundational norms and values. Should Billingslea be confirmed to this position, his credibility - and that of the United States - on such fundamental issues would be profoundly affected. Regimes that resort to torture, sexual abuse, and extrajudicial killings would feel they have a license to carry on without fear of consequences. The people we help would be made even more vulnerable. And our own security would weigh even less than it already does.

An official who helped develop the faulty legal justification for torture is the wrong man for the job. The U.S. Senate has for many years showed leadership in contributing to the United Nations Fund for Victims of Torture. It should stay the course and reject this nomination.

List of signatories:

1. ACAT Belgique

2. ACAT Bénin

3. ACAT Burundi

4. ACAT Cameroun

5. ACAT Canada

6. ACAT Deutschland

7. ACAT France

8. ACAT Ghana

9. ACAT Liberia

10. ACAT République Centrafricaine

11. ACAT Spain/Cataluna

12. ACAT Suisse

13. ACAT Sweden

14. ACAT Tchad


16. ACI Participa, Honduras

17. Alliance pour l'universalité des droits Fondamentaux, DRC

18. Alternative Espace Niger, Niger

19. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos de España (APRODH-E), Spain

20. Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et la Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ATPDH), Tchad

21. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India

22. Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (FrayBa), Mexico

23. Centro de Prevencion, Tratamiento y Rehabilitation (CPTRT), Honduras

24. Centro Prodh, Mexico

25. Coalition des Organisations de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Démocratie au Niger (CODDHD), Niger

26. Colectivo de Abogados "José Alvear Restrepo" (CAJAR), Colombia

27. Collectif des Associations Contre l'Impunité au Togo (CACIT), Togo

28. Committee against Torture (CAT), Russia

29. Documenta, Mexico

30. Enfants Solidaires d'Afrique et du Monde (ESAM), Bénin


32. Fundación Comité de Solidaridad con Presos Políticos (FCSPP), Colombia

33. Greek Helsinki Monitor, Greece

34. Gulf Center for Human Rights

35. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

36. Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), Kenya

37. Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la UCA (IDHUCA), El Salvador

38. Instituto de Terapia e Investigación sobre las Secuelas de la Tortura y de la Violencia Estatal (ITEI), Bolivia

39. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)

40. La Cimade, France

41. Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH), Lebanon

42. Ligue algérienne pour la défense des droits de l'Homme (LADDH), Algérie

43. Mouvement ivorien des droits humains (MIDH), Côte d'Ivoire

44. Odhikar, Bangladesh

45. Paso del Norte, Mexico

46. Philippines Alliance of Human Rights Advocate (PAHRA), Philippines

47. PromoLex, Moldova

48. Quill Foundation, India

49. Réseau de protection des victimes, témoins et défenseurs des Droits Humains (RDDH), DRC

50. SOHRAM-Casra, Turkey

51. SOS IJM - SOS Information Juridique Multidimensionnelle, DRC

52. SOS-Torture Burundi, Burundi

53. Synergie des femmes contre les violences sexuelles (SFVS), DRC

54. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Philippines

55. UDEFEGUA, Guatemala

56. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

57. Xumek, Argentina


See also:

* Tribune News Service: Trump's Human Rights Pick Marshall Billingslea Is Torture Apologist.

* CQ/Roll Call: Bush-Era Torture Memos Cast Doubt On Human Rights Nominee's Approval.

* Amnesty USA: Marshall Billingslea Should Not be Confirmed.

* Human Rights Watch: Groups Express Serious Concern Regarding Billingslea Nomination To State Department Role.


Previously in torture:
* Doc Of Rages.

* They Said No To Torture.

* The Trews: What Should We Think About CIA Torture.

* The Tortured History Of The Senate Torture Report.

* Torture USA.

* The Best Reporting On Detention And Rendition Under Obama.

* Primer: Indefinite Detention And The NDAA.

* The Senate Report On CIA Interrogations You May Never See.

* Guantanamo: If The Light Goes Out.

* The Prison That Just Can't Be Closed.

* Barack Obama's Secret Island Prison.

* Guantanamo Prisoner Lifts Lid.

* Read The Fucking Torture Report, People.

* American Torture Story - Chicago Chapter.

* Obama Administration Blocks Release Of New Torture Details.

* REVEALED: The Boom And Bust Of The CIA's Secret Torture Sites.

* Torture By Iraqi Militias: The Report Washington Did Not Want You To See.

* 'Stunning:' CIA Admits 'Mistakenly' Deleting Copy of Senate Torture Report.

* Incommunicado' Forever: Gitmo Detainee's Case Stalled For 2,477 Days And Counting.

* The Terror Suspect Who Had Nothing To Give.

* Abducted, Tortured And Held 14 Years Without Trial, Gitmo Diary Author Finally Free.

* CIA Cables Detail New Deputy Director's Role in Torture.

* How Torture Tears Apart Societies From Within.

* Homan Square: A Report Back.



* John Conroy's Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture.


Comments welcome.


Posted on October 10, 2019

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