Friday, August 5, 2011

Pacific YM approved minute opposing torture... after an excruciating process

It is not suprising that Pacific Yearly Meeting approved a minute opposing torture during its recent annual session. What came as a surprise, and even a shock, is that we couldn't come to unity at first. Some Friends became bogged down in procedural questions--"are we following Quaker process?"--rather than entering into the spirit of the minute. Other Friends  felt rushed--only ten minutes was allotted to discussion, as opposed to 40 minutes allotted to discussion of budget matters. Some Friends were frustrated that so little time was given to a concern that seemed to warrant much more serious consideration.

When we couldn't come to unity on the first reading of the minute, I was led to rise and remind Friends that prisoners in Pelican Bay were enduring treatment tantamount to torture, and were engaged in a hunger strike to call attention to their plight. I also reminded Friends of what Paul said in Hebrews 13: "Treat those in prison as if you yourself are in prison with them, and treat those being tortured as if you are being tortured with them." I said I was going to fast in solidarity with the Pelican Bay prisoners. I hope that this fast would inspire Friends to be more empathetic.

The next morning Friends approved the minute, and I broke my fast. Going hungry for 24 hours opened me up to some of what the hunger-striking prisoners must have experienced, and I am glad God led me to make that witness. I hoped that Friends and others will be led to identify with both the victims and perpetrators of torture, and to work to end this dehumanizing practice forever.

Minute 2011.10: As Friends, we stand firmly opposed to torture committed by anyone in any setting. We support the work of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture ( as well as of Quakers’ Initiative to End Torture ( We urge elected officials to bring to justice those who have authorized torture in violation of international law. We urge our governments to stop preventing the victims of torture from seeking redress and just compensation in our courts. We are also deeply concerned that cruel and inhumane punishment such as involuntary long-term solitary confinement are taking place in prisons in California and throughout the USA and the world. Finally, we support the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), which can help prevent torture and abuse by requiring a ratifying country to establish National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs) to monitor the treatment of prisoners. In addition to the NPMs, OPCAT allows for international oversight of places of confinement to ensure that torture and other abuses are not occurring.

As Quakers, we believe that torture is a moral and religious issue. We believe that there is "that of God" in every human being and therefore everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Torture does incalculable and long-lasting damage to the torturer, the torture victim and the witnesses of torture. Torture erodes a nation's moral fiber, diminishes its moral standing in the world, incites retaliation, and puts at risk the lives of its citizens abroad and at home.

We urge an end to this practice.”

Como Amigos, declaramos nuestra postura firmamente en contra de la tortura realizada por cualquier persona bajo cualesquieras circunstancias. Apoyamos los esfuerzos de las organizaciones estadounidenses “National Religious Campaign Against Torture” ( y “Quakers Initiative to End Torture” ( Llamamos a nuestros delegados para hacerles responsables por sus acciones quienes hayan autorizado el uso de la tortura en violación al derecho internacional. Queremos que nuestro gobierno deje de impedir a las victimas de la tortura endosada por el estado en su búsqueda por una indemnificación y respuesta justa frente a los tribunales locales. También tenemos una preocupación profunda sobre la práctica de castigos crueles e inhumanos como la encarcelación solitaria de largo plazo en los centros carcelarios tanto en el estado de California como en los demás estados y alrededor del mundo. Por último, apoyamos al Protocolo Optativo para la Resolución en Contra de la Tortura (OPCAT por sus siglas en inglés), lo cual puede ayudar con la prevención de la tortura y el abuso al requerir a los países firmantes implementar a Mecanismos Preventivos Nacionales (los NPM por sus siglas en inglés) para monitorear el tratamiento de los encarcelados. Además a los NPM, la OPCAT contempla la supervisión internacional para lugares de encarcelamiento para asegurar que no esté presente ni la práctica de la tortura ni abusos.

Como Amigos, es nuestro sentir que la tortura es un asunto ambos moral y religioso. Creemos que existe “este de Dios” en cada persona y por lo tanto todos merecen ser tratados con respeto y de manera digna. La tortura causa daños insuperables y de largo plazo tanto para la victima como para el que aplica la tortura. La tortura afecta el contexto moral del país, su prestigio entre la comunidad internacional, incita las represalias y pone en riesgo las vidas de sus cuidadanos tanto en el país como en el extranjero.

Queremos eliminar esta práctica.
Translation by Browen Hillman, Mexico City.

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