Does America need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for torture?

November 24, 2009

Paul van Zyl is the former executive secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this presentation to the Poptech conference, he argues that America must confront its own legacy of torture:

A new America must confront this dark chapter openly and publicly. It must give victims a chance to testify and allow the American people to hear a firsthand, unvarnished account of the crimes committed in their name. It is only then that America will be able to say to itself in unambiguous terms: “We are not a nation that tortures its enemies. We regard torture as immoral and criminal. We will never justify or condone torture and we will punish those who commit these criminal acts.”

Watch the video below or click here to read van Zyl’s speech in full.

Click here for more Reuters coverage of Poptech.


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The United States Long ago recognized torture as illegal and criminal. All military personnel are instructed in basic training that torture is still a violation of U.S. and International Law (Geneva Convention). As such President Obama’s statement that interrogators who used torture under the belief they were following legal orders from any superior should be ridiculed. All of the Interrogators were CIA and overwhelmingly present or former military personnel. They all new better.Our leaders are descending into a state of depravity. There is nothing to reconcile. All that is left is to hold those responsible and their protectors accountable. That is if the American people have the stomach for such work? We torture Islamic Arabs now. When our government turns this criminal activity inward upon our own people, what group will become the next victims? And the next ?

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive

Our nation has established that torture is the low road in conflict. It should not be allowed now.If an interrogator in a tight situation needs to get information that would save lives during a time of war, and feels that torturing is the only means of access, then let that interrogator justify his actions before the courts. Let the courts decide if the action was justified.But do not allow it as a matter of practice no matter what so called “special circumstances” may arise.God forbid that we should have come to a point in our country where our very honor is no longer sacred.We are not animals and we should not be content to live as such.

Posted by Benny Acosta | Report as abusive