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ISSUE 121 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/2/2008

Center for Victims of Torture presents

By Monica Southworth
Staff Writer


Friday, May 2, 2008

Last week, the Political Awareness Committee hosted a representative from the Center for Victims of Torture. Jack Rice from CVT spoke about the center and its role in dealing with torture victims.

"I don't think there's much question about the interrogation tactics used at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," Rice said. "Governments don't call it torture either. There's always a euphemism to describe what they're doing." Rice described torture as the intentional deliberate and systematic dismantling of a person's humanity, instead of using it to acquire information. Oftentimes, he said, governments will use torture to eliminate community leaders in small towns, and that torture is rarely used on a global level.

"Torture is not used for information. It is used to oppress and to hold on to political control," Rice said. "It is an inaccurate and unreliable way of gathering information. Governments used them [victims of torture] as an example to discourage people to rise up against them."

Rice said that most people the center sees are from Ethiopia, Liberia, Cameroon, and Togo. He said that approximately 54 percent of victims have suffered from psychological tortures and beatings on the soles of the feet, followed by sexual torture.

"Minnesota and the Twin Cities has really become a hub for refugees," Rice said. "Most of the clients we see are from Africa."

Rice said there were approximately 30,000 victims of torture who live in Minnesota. The center is able to serve 250 clients on a yearly basis, and the length of treatment varies for each candidate.

At the center, employees train refugees to help out with torture victims from their own countries. Rice expressed a need for mental health services. One example he gave of the shortage of help was in Sierre Leon after the government tortured doctors, there was only one psychiatrist left to help the people.

"We're working with people who were community leaders, doctors, and teachers," Rice said.

The CVT is advocating the "Eight Lessons of Torture" to policymakers, the first of which is "torture does not yield reliable information." Other lessons include "torture has a corrupting effect on the perpetrator" and "we cannot use torture and still retain the moral high ground."

Rice said psychological torture is more damaging than physical. Some people have had nightmares for up to 15 to 20 years afterwards. Types of torture included mock executions, holding an empty gun to their head and pulling the trigger. Rice also discussed stress and duress techniques of torture.

"They'll make someone stand on the balls of their feet and then kneel, breaking down someone's muscles by putting all the pressure on a few muscles," Rice said.

On the organization's website, there are five main policy pushes by the CVT. The first drives for the Army Field Manual to be the "minimum standard of treatment for all U.S. officials including contractors and the CIA." The second calls for the end of sending "terrorist suspects to other countries to be tortured." The third is a push to restore Habeas Corpus. The fourth is the "end of use of evidence obtained under coercion or torture," and the last one is a call to "provide legal remedies and full rehabilitation for torture victims created by the U.S." More information about these policy issues can be found on the organization's website.

One of the main pushes is for all organizations under the United States Government to use The Army Field manual, a 177 page manual outlining how to conduct interrogations. The manual does not include any torture techniques. Rice looked at the three presidential candidates positions on torture. He brought up a recent Time magazine article entitled, "Has McCain flip-flopped on torture?"

"It is going to be very interesting to see how much attention is paid to torture because of all the other issues in the country," Rice said. "None of the three candidates have torture listed as an issue. McCain and Clinton don't even mention torture, and Obama has a very brief mention of torture, but no real policy adjustments."

"If I had to list the issues that all three candidates have the most common ground on, this would be on the top three," Rice said. "It's a matter of semantics. Just because everyone agrees on it doesn't mean they're not going to create an issue out of it."

To become involved, Rice encouraged students to write letters to their local newspaper, become an informed voter about the issue of torture and to write to elected officials.

Rice recalled his own letter writing experience. "I wrote my congressman a letter asking about it, and I received a six page response." For more information about the Center for Victims of Torture, visit www.cvt.org. For more information on the issue of torture, Rice suggested the website www.tortureisamoralissue.com.

Other events on victims of torture this week included a couragous resistance panel sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha that featured Florida State University professor Nathan Stoltzfus and St. Olaf Professor Kris Thalhammer. Both scholars collaborated on a book called "Courageous Resistance: The Power of Ordinary People."

Pi Sigma Alpha also sponsored a lecture on genocide, law and activism featuring Brad Lehrman, J.D. and Ellen Kennedy, Ph.D. The lecture focused on current legal and social aspects of genocide, especially in Sudan. Lehrman and Kennedy discussed ways students could become anti-genocide activists in Minnesota.





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