Information, contact: Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660, ext. 105, lsiems@pen.org

New York, NY, January 4, 2005—PEN American Center asked members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today to use this Thursday’s hearings on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as an opportunity to reassert United States commitment to an international ban on torture. “As you prepare for the Judiciary Committee’s hearings on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to the office of Attorney General of the United States, we entreat you to reflect on the global impact of the abusive practices we now know have been routine not only at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq but also in U.S.-run detention facilities around the world,” PEN President Salman Rushdie urged committee members.

“PEN,” Rushdie noted, is an organization that routinely challenges the use of torture in many countries of the world, and until recently was confident that its appeals were echoed by the U.S. government and strengthened by U.S. ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Now, however, there have been mounting revelations that the United States is operating its own “extra-constitutional legal system in which torture is both condoned and routine.”

“Information released in a Freedom of Information action has shredded the Administration’s assertions that the Abu Ghraib abuses were isolated incidents perpetrated by rogue servicemen and women,” PEN asserted in its letter. “We now know that Congressional investigations in the Abu Ghraib abuses were shamefully inadequate, that torture has occurred routinely at Guantánamo, in Afghanistan, and at secret U.S. detention facilities in several countries, including the United States, and that the abuses documented in the photographs of ordinary U.S. soldiers are not at the center but rather the periphery of an international scandal.” Noting that post-9/11 surveys confirm that the American people remain overwhelmingly opposed to torture, Rushdie asked the senators to use the Gonzales hearings as “an opportunity for the Senate to re-ratify the UN Convention Against Torture” and win commitment to “the absolute letter and spirit of both U.S. and international law.

>> Read PEN’s letter

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