Over the past decade, our work has been dedicated to advancing the moral position that torture is wrong under any and all circumstances. There can be no exceptions to the ethical and legal prohibitions against torture. We formed WSRCAT with the knowledge that our own government had adopted torture as a policy. We were shocked by this knowledge and compelled to take action.
Our Work: Our work has entailed educating the public about U.S. sponsored torture: organizing opposition to torture, pressuring elected officials to act to end torture, and demanding accountability of government officials and contractors who authorized and implemented torture. We support full transparency related to past practices of the government, such as the publication of the full Senate Report on the CIA torture program and all legal memos, photos and executive orders related to torture. We have also worked to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, release those who have not been charged with crimes, provide legal representation to all Guantanamo inmates, and end the deeply flawed military commission system for trying those charged with war crimes. We have also supported the work of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and other organizations committed to ending torture in U.S. prisons; proclaiming that the practices of solitary confinement, forced feeding, beatings, and other inhuman and degrading treatment are forms of torture.
During the Obama years, WSRCAT continued anti-torture work. We applaud President Obama's 2009 executive order to end U.S. sponsored torture, which was then codified by Congress in 2015. However, many dangers remained throughout the Obama presidency. Most crucially, WSRCAT was strongly critical of the Obama Administration's decision to suppress efforts to hold the perpetrators of torture accountable. Our position continues to stress that impunity for crimes committed by high government officials undermines the rule of law, further weakens American's standing in the world on matters of human rights, and creates the plausible assumption for future government officials that their illegal acts will also go unpunished. Although falling short of judicial proceedings, we supported the investigation into CIA torture conducted by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. We opposed efforts of the CIA to interfere with the work of the committee, and we continue to press for the release of the full report on U.S. torture, which is still being withheld. We also call for the closing of Guantanamo prison in the face of congressional opposition, believing it remains a stain on the nation and undermines national security.
We remain vigilant in our opposition to continuing torture practices, especially by allied security forces, with or without the knowledge or direct assistance of U.S. security and military officials. Not least, we continue our educational efforts, realizing that most people know very little about what has actually occurred: how the torture program was organized, justified and carried out; the extensiveness of the program; what techniques were used employing torture and cruel and inhuman treatment; the strong international prohibitions against torture; and the physical and emotional consequences for the victims of torture. We categorically oppose the prescription for amnesia issued by President Obama when he counseled that Americans needed to "look forward, not backward." Educating people about torture remains at the forefront of our efforts.
Current Priorities: Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and into the first months of the presidency of Donald Trump, WSRCAT is alert to several dangers: the damage inflicted by pro-torture rhetoric, including threats to bring back torture by presidential candidates and our new president; justifications of past torture, either by perpetrators or those who want to absolve them; the continued glorification of torture in movies and TV; the appointment of officials to high government positions who have been involved in past torture programs; escalation of the continuing wars in the greater Middle East which, despite claims of adherence to the laws of war, inevitably invite violations of human rights; and all practices that dehumanize individuals because of their ethnicity, creed or gender. We believe that any violation of human rights by our government, along with stigmatizing and dehumanizing rhetoric, invites the violation of other human rights.
Accomplishments: WSRCAT has become a well-known and highly regarded presence in the Puget Sound region. Our 2007 banner campaign was a major success. Our many public events have been well attended. Our opinion editorials have been read by thousands of people. Our pressing elected officials for legislative changes has met with some success. Our testimony before the Seattle Human Rights Commission resulted in a unanimously approved resolution committing Seattle to being a "torture-free city." Our coalition building has connected several disparate groups, many of which we actively support. In the coming years, WSRCAT plans to remain active in the core human rights issues of the present era.