Friday, June 24, 2011

The U.N. International Day for Torture Survivors

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Press Advisory: Amnesty International- Amherst Chapter
Contact: mohamed elgadi

"They came to get me at night when the power was off in the area, and made sure not to be identified by my family. I was taken to the infamous security offices in north Nyala, which is known as one of the worst Ghost Houses in Darfur. The torture was severe and took many different ways such as beating, flogging, stress positions, electric shocks, etc. However, the worst method was when they ordered me to walk barefoot on broken glass and when I resisted I was electrified and fell on it. I still carry the scars from that horrific experience."

This is a quote from Ibrahim Abbaker, age 29, an Electric Engineer from Nyala, Darfur (Sudan) who was just released a month ago after being arrested many times and tortured due to his peaceful opposition to the regime of Sudan’s President al-Bashir. In this quote, he is referring to his last arrest in May, 2011 when he participated in a protest rally during the visit of the Sudanese Vice President to Darfur.

In Sudan, the regime of President al-Bashir continues to be ruthless in using torture against opposition forces. This has been Sudan’s formal policy especially since the President was indicted and was issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court.

Another example of maltreatment of prisoners is found in Chile where imprisoned native Mapuche activists have just ended an 86-day hunger strike. “They are protesting their unfair trial and harsh sentences under The Terrorism Act. They are not terrorists. They demand the return of the Mapuche’s ancestral land,” said Ester Orellana, of Amherst and a Native Mapuche from Chile.

Amnesty International’s Amherst Group 128 observes the United Nations’ International Day for Torture Survivors this June 26th with cautious optimism. We have an administration in the White House that has voiced its commitment to stopping torture and took practical steps to shut down the infamous Guantánamo Bay prison.

Still, the killing of Osama bin Laden has brought the torture debate back to our shores. Congressman Peter King, Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee told Fox News that “the success of the hunt for bin Laden was due to waterboarding.”

Information extracted under torture has been found to be false since a tortured person will say anything to stop the pain. Sen. Dianne Feinstein asserted that bin Laden's location was pieced together after years of intelligence-gathering rather than by torture. If these immoral acts are not declared illegal, but rather allowed to continue through our silence, then we must live with the reality that we are all guilty of torture.

Each one of us must speak up and demand that our government set an example by denouncing and ending our usage of torture, right now and in the future. Continue this discussion with Amnesty International Group 128 every other Saturday in the summer by the Amherst Farmer's Market in the Town Common.

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