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It has been more than 50 years since the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and more than 15 years since the Convention Against Torture entered into force. And yet, over half the countries in the world continue to use torture as a strategic tool of repression.  According to Amnesty International, torture is used in more than 150 countries.
 
Recently the TV program 60 Minutes ran a segment suggesting torture should be allowed in the U.S. in fighting terrorism.  Following is the response of the Center for Victims of Torture.
 
September 24, 2002
60 Minutes
524 West 57FONT St.
New York, New York 10019
 
Dear 60 Minutes Staff and Viewers:
 
Mike Wallaces segment with Alan Dershowitz "Make Torture An Option" on September 22 emphasized the ticking bomb scenario as a case that would warrant torture. What he fails to acknowledge is though torture may feel like the quick-fix to terrorism, in reality history tells us it doesnt work.

Dershowitz misses a key point: Torture is incredibly ineffective as an interrogation tool. Never having faced the reality of torture, too many Americans understand it through fictional stories of tough cops or captured heroes.

Yet everything we know about the actual practice of torture shows that it is extremely destructive for societies and completely ineffective for gathering reliable information from individuals. In Northern Ireland, Britain used torture against Catholics who were never charged with crimes, worsening the conflict in the process.

Israels past acts of torture have, according to outside monitoring groups, never once stopped a single suicide bombing or other murderous attack.

South Africas use of torture completely destroyed the normal functioning of their police forces, since they no longer had to bother gathering evidence to obtain convictions.

Americas prohibition against torture is fundamental to our civil society. We cannot accept or tolerate a violation of this essential American value.

America has shown great strength and resiliency in the wake of Sept. 11, but fear can make people think the unthinkable. Having served hundreds of survivors of torture and victims of terrorism,

I can tell you that abandoning our principles will only make Americans more fearful, knowing that the terrorists have created a panic that has cracked the foundation of our civility.

Sincerely,


Douglas A. Johnson

Executive Director, Center for Victims of Torture
President, National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs
Minneapolis, MN

Center for Victims of Torture Web Site