Activists Rally Around ‘Torture Awareness Month’

By Susan Jones in

June is “Torture Awareness Month,” by declaration of various human rights, civil liberties and (anti-war) faith organizations.

The coalition’s Torture Awareness website says it is responding to “the growing evidence that the United States government is engaging systematically in the use of torture and inhuman treatment as part of the ‘war on terror.'”

Anti-war activists’ have long complained about the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay and the activities of some U.S. troops at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

More recently, press reports about the alleged massacre of unarmed Iraqi civilians in Haditha appear to have further inflamed anti-war and anti-Bush sentiment in the United States.

“We believe that the use of torture and inhuman treatment must end immediately and everyone involved in committing these abuses or fostering the environment in which they occurred be held accountable,” the Torture Awareness website says.

The coalition said its “month of action and education” in June is intended to “raise awareness in your community about the US government’s use of torture and inhuman treatment.”

The campaign will culminate in Washington on June 26, when activists plan to lobby Members of Congress to pass legislation stopping the use of extraordinary rendition, which it describes as the “outsourcing” of torture.

Extraordinary rendition refers to the practice of detaining terrorism suspects in foreign countries and sending them to countries known to engage in torture.

The Bush administration has rejected criticism that it flouts the Geneva Convention or the laws of the United States. Two years ago, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld complained about the way some people were defining “torture.”

Group sponsoring Torture Awareness month include the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, Council on American Islamic Relations, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, No2Torture, The Presbyterian Initiative Against Torture, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Torture Abolition Support and Survivors Coalition.