Friday marks the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which shines an important light on a practice the U.N. rightly calls “one of the vilest acts perpetrated by human beings on their fellow human beings.”
Accordingly, it was welcome news that on a widely bipartisan basis the U.S. Senate voted 78-21 last week to codify into law President Obama’s ban on torture and require that the Red Cross be given access to detainees in American custody. The measure would make the U.S. Army Field Manual on Interrogations, which bans torture, the sole standard used by all elements of the U.S. government. The House should follow suit.
“It needs to become law, because otherwise the next president could reverse the executive order, and torture becomes a policy option rather than a legal matter,” Curt Goering, executive director of the Center for Victims of Torture, told an editorial writer. The Minnesota-based center, a global leader in treatment and advocacy, is marking its 30th year.
Unfortunately, there’s less consensus beyond the Beltway. The U.S. public is “an outlier on torture,” a new Pew Research Center Global Attitudes and Trends report states. Globally, a median of 40 percent “believe their own governments would be justified in using torture against people suspected of terrorism in order to gain information about possible attacks.” The commensurate U.S. figure was 58 percent.
“This should be a wake-up call to public officials who have a responsibility to lead this kind of public opinion, and not follow it,” Goering said.
America has historically been a beacon for human rights, and the country is strengthened by policies and laws that ensure that this remains the case.