Please call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) as soon as possible to speak with your Member of the House of Representatives.
The “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act” H.R. 10, will be voted on today in the House of Representatives. It includes several problematic provisions that undermine fundamental human rights, civil liberties, due process rights for immigrants and asylum seekers and protection against torture, and are contrary to recommendations by the 9/11 Commission. The Republican Chair and Democratic Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission have criticized the House bill for departing from their recommendations, and the White House has issued a statement, published in The Washington Post, opposing the provisions for outsourcing of torture. Several amendments urgently need attention.
OPPOSE THE OUTSOURCING OF TORTURE
Amnesty International urges the United States House of Representatives to reject provisions of "The 9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act," (HR 10) that would legalize the outsourcing of torture and curtail civil liberties and human rights. Congress should not use the cover of the 9/11 Commission recommendations to further an agenda that legitimizes torture, punishes asylum seekers and broadens secret government surveillance powers.
Many of the extraneous provisions included in the bill would directly contradict recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission. For example, the Commission recommends that the US government comply with the rule of law, while the HR 10 attempts to abrogate US obligations under the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. The Commission also puts the burden on the executive branch to prove why they need the expanded powers granted to them under legislation like the USA PATRIOT Act. Instead, HR 10 would expand the government’s power to secret surveillance, in direct contravention of the Commission’s recommendation.
Specifically, HR 10 would:
-Legalize the outsourcing of torture. Currently, there is no exception in US law or the torture convention that would allow the US to transfer any individual to a country where it is more likely than not that they will be tortured. Sections 3032 of the House bill would create exceptions to this absolute rule and also raise the burden of proof to "clear and convincing evidence," an almost impossible standard to meet. This provision would apply retroactively so that people who were previously granted protection under the torture convention would be forced to meet this higher burden of proof with evidence that may no longer be available. White House Counsel Albert Gonzales has sent a letter to the Washington Post stating that such a provision would violate US obligations under the torture convention and that the administration does not support it. Members on both sides of the aisle understand that undermining the absolute ban on torture puts US civilian and military personnel at greater risk around the world, giving cover to human rights abusing regimes that would seek to torture American citizens.
- Expand provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act. Section 2001 would expand the government’s ability to monitor individuals based on unchallengeable warrants issued by a secret intelligence court. Section 2043 would expand the definition of "material support" to a terrorist organization to include mere association with the group even if no money or other resources were supplied, making it a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
- Require asylum seekers to "corroborate" their claim of persecution. The bill would significantly raise the hurdle for asylum seekers, who often lack any ability to prove their claim through anything save their own testimony. Not surprisingly, asylum seekers have difficulty obtaining corroborating documents from the very government that is persecuting them. It would also limit the right to appeal decisions and even allow immigration judges to deny asylum based on a person’s "demeanor", further creating barriers to legitimate asylum claims.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Congress should oppose the Hostettler amendment.
- Congress should support for the Smith amendments and the Menendez substitute amendment.
- If the Menendez substitute amendment fails, Congress should vote no on final passage of HR 10.
Support the Menendez Substitute Amendment (#27). The Menendez Substitute Amendment would substitute the House bill with the language of Senate bills that faithfully implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The Menendez Amendment would provide a "clean" bill that focuses exclusively on improvements deemed necessary by the 9/11 Commission without adding extra provisions that legalize the outsourcing of torture and curtail fundamental human rights, civil rights and protections for asylum seekers.
Oppose the Hostettler Amendment (#47). The Hostettler Amendment would reduce the protections guaranteed to people under the Convention Against Torture. It would direct the Secretary of State to seek "assurances" from a country that it would not torture the person returned to that country, even after a court determined that the person would likely face torture upon return to that country. Such diplomatic assurances were obtained from Syria before the US sent Maher Arar there, where he reports he was imprisoned and tortured for almost a year.
Support the Smith Amendments (#50 and #51). Smith Amendment #50 would strike section 3006, the part of the bill that expands “expedited removal,” allowing summary deportation for persons who entered without inspection and have been in the United States for less than five years – even if they have jobs, families and children here – without a formal hearing before an immigration judge. Smith Amendment #51 would strike section 3007, which restricts the rights of asylum-seekers and would allow denial of asylum claims on highly subjective grounds, such as the applicant’s “demeanor.”
If the Menendez Substitute Amendment fails, urge your Representative to vote against final passage of H.R. 10. Even if the Smith amendments are accepted, the bill would still provide inadequate protection against returning people to torture and it would include sections that increase government secret surveillance powers, make mere association with a group illegal, and restrict due process rights for asylum seekers.
Please call the Capitol switchboard (202-224-3121) as soon as possible to speak with your Member of the House of Representatives today.