New York. The National Lawyers Guild calls on Congress to override George W. Bush’s veto—in direct contravention of the advice of military commanders—of the Intelligence Authorization Bill that contained a provision limiting the Central Intelligence Agency’s ability to engage in the torture technique known as waterboarding. The practice is currently prohibited by both military and law enforcement agencies. The bill would have limited U.S. interrogators to techniques permitted in the Army Field Manual on Interrogation. Senator John McCain voted against the bill, reversing his previous position on torture.
Torture is illegal under domestic and international law. The U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, and the United States is a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which makes it part of U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. That convention prohibits torture even in wartime. Torture is also unlawful under the U.S. Torture Statute (18 USC 2340) and the U.S. War Crimes Act (18 USC 2441).
The Guild calls Congress to override Bush’s veto, and to submit reports detailing the extent to which the United States is engaging in the practice of torture. Eight years ago, in his June 26, 2003 statement on UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, George Bush said that the United States is leading by example in prohibiting torture: “The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. I call on all nations to speak out against torture in all its forms and to make ending torture an essential part of their diplomacy.”
Under the Convention Against Torture, all State parties are obliged to submit regular reports on their compliance with the treaty mandates. “The Committee Against Torture has criticized the United States for failing to comply with its legal obligations under the convention. By vetoing the anti-torture bill, Bush is signaling his clear intent to continue violating the law,” said Guild President Marjorie Cohn.
Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.