New York, NY, October 31, 2007—Disturbed by the reluctance of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey to speak clearly and forcefully against torture and other forms of cruel and inhumane treatment during his confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, PEN is urging senators to demand clarifications and insist that approval of his nomination be contingent on a repudiation of illegal, abusive interrogations.

In a letter sent today to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, PEN reminds senators that under the UN Convention Against Torture and other international covenants, the ban on torture is binding on all signatory nations and admits no exceptions under any circumstances. Noting that in his confirmation hearings Judge Mukasey refused to characterize waterboarding as a form of torture and seemed to endorse the Administration’s legal opinions suggesting the President can authorize torture and other illegal acts, PEN writes:

That the United States has in fact abrogated that norm is now graphically and inarguably clear to the world. It will only further damage our international standing to endorse the appointment of Judge Mukasey or anyone else who fails to call torture by its name, renounce the mistreatment of detainees, or reject the legal arguments by which the Administration has sought, impermissibly, to justify these well documented violations.

The letter cites the ordeal of recently released PEN Honorary Member Mohammad Abbou in Tunisia as an example of how corrosive the U.S.’s embrace of abusive interrogation techniques is proving to be for the fight to win compliance with the Convention Against Torture internationally. Abbou, a lawyer, human rights activist, and internet writer was jailed in March 2005 for an article comparing torture in Tunisia to torture depicted in photographs from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Larry Siems, (212) 334-1660 ext. 105