Survivors, activists raise concerns about use of torture


The use of torture by some governments continues and the practice is being challenged in a series of events this week in Washington.

The events mark Torture Awareness Month and are sponsored by groups such as the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Witness Against Torture, whose members include faith-based leaders and Catholic Workers from across the U.S.

Demissie Abebe, director of the torture survivors group, said the events keep the focus on the impact of torture on human beings and give torture survivors the chance to explain how widespread the practice is by governments around the world.

“It’s all about educating the public so that they can wake up and stand up to speak up about this problem,” Abebe said.

Witness Against Torture has long advocated for the release of the 171 suspected terrorists still being held at the U.S. Army base in Guantanamo, Cuba. The organization maintains that American interrogators have used torture on detainees in Guantanamo and elsewhere in its anti-terrorism campaign.

The U.S. government has denied the claim.

The week’s events include a Witness Against Torture-sponsored procession of orange jumpsuit-clad protesters, representing the men held at Guantanamo June 23. Members will walk from the White House to the Capitol, with stops at the Justice Dept and the Supreme Court.

The Catholic University of America hosts a daylong workshop June 22 on contemporary applications of justice for torture survivors in post-war settings, an event sponsored by the torture survivors coalition. Activists and torture survivors will visit congressional offices June 23 to call for the U.S. to end support of countries that torture.

The week closes June 25 with a 12-hour vigil in Lafayette Park across from the White House.

“It’s not acceptable for a country like the U.S., a human rights champion, to send funding, to send aid to countries that are torturing its citizens,” Abebe said. “We know there is a long way to go.”

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