Historians Denounce Use of Torture by the US

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Update Sunday 1-8-06: This morning the AHA Council unanimously approved the resolution denouncing the use of torture.

Alarmed by reports that the United States is torturing foreign prisoners American historians meeting in Philadelphia sharply criticized the practice after a brief debate lasting just under 15 minutes. The historians, members of the American Historical Association, the nation’s oldest and most revered historical society, acted at the recommendation of their former president, Joyce Appleby. Her resolution, which was approved at the organization’s annual Business Meeting, now goes to the Council for final consideration. The Council reportedly will take up the resolution at a meeting on Sunday.

The final resolution included two amendments that softened harsh criticism of the Bush administration. Although there was considerable debate over the amendments—-and great confusion over which phrases were being amended--in the end the resolution received nearly unanimous approval.

In an apparent attempt to divide Republicans and embarrass the Bush administration, the resolution notes that Ronald Reagan signed a resolution of the congress in 1984 opposing torture.

In Appleby’s absence, the resolution was defended by Margaret Jacobs. She said that she never imagined she would see a day when the United States was using torture.

Text of the Resolution on the United States Government’s Abusive Policies Toward Foreign Prisoners

Whereas, as professional historians, we share the special responsibility of identifying and condemning actions that violate elementary standards of human decency that have evolved over centuries and represent the common heritage of all human kind;

Whereas, the fight against terrorist attacks has encouraged our government to override the nation’s long-standing adherence to the Geneva Conventions and tolerate abusive treatment of prisoners in its custody as well as open itself to charges of using rendition to send its prisoners to foreign countries where they may be tortured and maintaining secret detention centers outside our borders;

Whereas, this conduct jeopardizes the nation’s profound and historic commitment to human rights; and

Whereas, the American Historical Association is committed to government openness and to the belief that public disclosure of documents relating to allegations of torture will speed the government’s ability to track down and stop abuses;

Resolved, that the American Historical Association encourage a public debate about the legitimacy of the government’s policies towards foreign prisoners while making clear its censure of the use of torture and affirming a commitment to the joint Congressional Resolution opposing torture signed into law by President Reagan in 1984 as well as to the United Nations Declaration and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading treatment.

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