National Religious Campaign Against Torture Interchange Reports

Winter 2014 Interchange

Interfaith Action For Human Rights is a Mid-Atlantic NRCAT Partner

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) has a mid-Atlantic regional partner you may not yet know: Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR). IAHR serves Northern Virginia, Maryland and DC and includes Steering Committee members from the Religious Society of Friends, Jewish and Muslim faiths and other members from the Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox Christian, Episcopalian and Unitarian churches and the United Church of Christ.

The national focus is on releasing detainees from Guantanamo who have long been cleared for release, charging and trying in federal court the rest and closing Guantanamo. Additionally, the group joins the growing chorus calling for the publication of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation practices. Maryland Senator Mikulski and Virginia Senator Warner both serve on the Intelligence Committee.

On the regional level the group supports ending the shackling of pregnant women in labor in prison and on ending the use of long term isolation of prisoners - often referred to as solitary confinement or segregation. Virginia has ended the shackling of women prisoners in labor; Maryland has two bills in this session to address both issues. Suzanne O’Hatnick, member of Stony Run Friends Meeting, Baltimore, and BYM representative to NRCAT, chairs IAHR and invites your participation and questions. She can be reached through the website

Winter 2012 Interchange

Torture: Why Should We Care?

Suzanne O’Hatnick, BYM Representative to NRCAT

After 9/11 our country reacted out of great fear that we would be attacked again. That is understandable. From a psychological point of view, when we feel our survival is threatened, many, perhaps most, will react with emotion rather than respond with reason. A primal reaction is flight or fight. Unfortunately, we apprehended people often with little or no justification; we subjected many to abuse, in part out of a desire for vengeance, in part out of misinformation about how to interrogate, often in an atmosphere of chaos and with untrained interrogators. One of the guards accused at Abu Ghraib of mistreatment of prisoners described the scene as out of the movie Mad Max. On the home front, first we were told there was no torture, or, if there was, it was the work of a few “bad apples.” Then, when it was revealed as Administration policy, we were told we had to go to ”the dark side” to protect Americans.

Despite claims to the contrary by politicians, the effectiveness of torture and abuse to secure information has been debunked by professional interrogators. The legitimacy of such “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the code phrase for torture, has been challenged by all branches of our military as well as by human rights organizations here and abroad as well as in courts in France, Spain, Canada and the UK.

Without an examination of what led us to reject our moral values of fairness and the humane treatment of those under our control and the rule of law, we are in danger of reverting to the same practices whenever we feel threatened. The complicity is so widespread in this dark chapter that one can understand reluctance to investigate. The result of not revisiting our behavior, however, has been an ever quickening slide away from the moral high ground. Congress just passed legislation that allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens. Targeted killings of American citizens have been authorized and carried out by drone strikes abroad. War crimes go unaddressed and an arbitrary system of justice has been instituted. These are only a sampling of the erosion of civil liberties that has taken place since 9/11/2001.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) believes an interfaith effort across political lines is necessary to urge accountability, starting with a commission of inquiry to bring before the public what has been done and is still being done in our name. Prosecution is not the only remedy, but unless we are willing to know what happened and what is still happening, not only is there no remedy, but also we forfeit a future as a democratic republic as we have known it.