The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) organized and led a delegation of 22 religious leaders and NRCAT staff in a meeting November 27, 2012, with White House staff, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). NRCAT is encouraging President Obama to sign the protocol, which has already been ratified by 64 nations and signed by an additional 22. Torture inflicts more physical and psychological harm than other interrogation techniques which are, in fact, more effective means of obtaining crucial national security intelligence and therefore cannot be condoned by Jewish law.
The treaty sets up oversight bodies and other international mechanisms to prevent torture and abuse in places of confinement including jails, police stations, prisons, mental health facilities, immigration detention centers, and detainee centers such as the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Last Tuesday’s meeting was the second meeting on this topic with NRCAT and White House staff.
Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Religious Action Center was pleased to join the delegation in this meeting. We are a member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and committed to cooperate with interfaith partners in efforts to end torture in U.S. policy, practice and culture. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former President of the Union for Reform Judaism, stated in an article published in The Jewish Journal: “The torture of prisoners, or issues of what is the appropriate conduct of soldiers, are issues that should have special resonance for Jews, given our experience in the 20th century. We have a special obligation to speak out on these issues; if we don’t, shame on us.”