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A Resolution Against the Use of Torture as a Violation of the American Library Association's Basic Values

WHEREAS, The American Library Association (ALA) is among the preeminent defenders of intellectual freedom and government openness in the US; and

WHEREAS, Intellectual freedom, our primary value as librarians, cannot be more seriously violated than by forcing speech or enforcing silence through systematic violence by government against detained individuals; and

WHEREAS, The US government has proven its readiness to use torture (including practices such as hooding, shackling, drugging, sleep deprivation, etc.) in the interrogation of suspected terrorists or their suspected accomplices in its "war on terror"; and

WHEREAS, The use of torture and coercive interrogative practices is inhumane, illegal and destructive of the democratic sensibilities of a free society, the cultivation of which we as an Association and as a profession are committed; and

WHEREAS, The secrecy which attends the use of torture violates our commitment to open government and the necessity of true and accurate information of our government's actions; and

WHEREAS, The violence of torture violates our commitment to the rule of law as a protector of the integrity and dignity of the human person; and

WHEREAS, The barbarity of torture fundamentally violates our commitment to the preservation of the human spirit; and

WHEREAS, The threat of torture or the use of torture and similar practices of coercing testimony, confessions, information is universally condemned under international law [e.g. the Geneva Convention, Article 3 and 31 and by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, Article 5] and (a) the Fourth Amendment's right to be free of unreasonable search or seizure (which encompasses the right not to be abused by the police), (b) the Fifth Amendment's right against self-incrimination (which encompasses the right to remain silent during interrogations), (c) the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments' guarantees of due process (ensuring fundamental fairness in criminal justice system) and (d) the Eighth Amendment's right to be free of cruel or unusual punishment]; and

WHEREAS, ALA policy 53.1.12, Universal Right to Free Expression: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, says, in part: "Courageous men and women, in difficult and dangerous circumstances throughout human history, have demonstrated that freedom lives in the human heart and cries out for justice even in the face of threats, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, exile, and death. We draw inspiration from their example. They challenge us to remain steadfast in our most basic professional responsibility to promote and defend the right of free expression"; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That ALA condemns the use or threat of use of torture by the US government as a barbarous violation of human rights, intellectual freedom and the rule of law. The ALA decries—along with the practice of torture anywhere—the suggestion by the US government that under a `state of emergency' in this country, or in territories it occupies, torture is in any case an acceptable tool in pursuit of its goals.

Adopted by the Council of the American Library Association
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
In Orlando, Florida

Keith Michael Fiels
Secretary of the ALA Council

Related Links

Torture (Intellectual Freedom Issue)