Tuesday, February 28, 2012

National Organizations in Support of the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act

 National Organizations in Support of the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act

January 1, 2012

Dear Representative,

We, the undersigned national organizations, strongly urge you to support HR 3781, the Law Enforcement Torture Prevention Act (LETPA).   This legislation is presented in response to an act of gross abuse of power that occurred in Chicago over a 19 year period, from 1972 to 1991 (however, we are aware that similar abuses have taken place at other times around the country).  During that time, over 110 African American men and women were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and detectives under his command at Area 2 and 3 Police Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The torture was intentionally inflicted to extract confessions, and techniques included electrically shocking men’s genitals, ears and lips with cattle prods or an electric shock box, anally raping men with cattle prods, suffocating individuals with plastic bags, mock executions, and beatings with telephone books and rubber hoses, as well as routinely depriving the victims of bathroom facilities, sleep and nourishment.

In 2008, the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, indicted Burge for two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of perjury for lying in responses to interrogatories for which he was found guilty.  Burge claimed that neither he, nor others, engaged in acts of torture and abuse at Chicago Police headquarters.  However, although the U.S. Government acknowledges that Burge and other detectives engaged in a pattern and practice of torture, they cannot be prosecuted for their actual crimes of torture.  While there are federal laws that criminalize acts of torture that occur within U.S. territory, all have short statutes of limitations, and none of the statutes proscribe acts of torture as crimes of tortureIt is clear that the laws currently on the books were not sufficient to hold Burge or other detectives fully accountable for these heinous human rights violations.

Furthermore, the United States, as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has an obligation under Article IV to “ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law” and to “make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.” Thus, it is incumbent on the federal government to pass legislation that proscribes acts of torture as a crime of torture and employs the internationally accepted definition of torture codified in Article I of the UN Convention of Torture. 
 This crime, like the crime of murder, should be free of any statute of limitations due to grave nature of the offense and the importance of deterring others from committing these crimes and human rights violations.  The legislation proposed by Congressman Davis accomplishes these goals.  While Burge may have gotten away with his crimes of torture, no other law enforcement officer should believe they can abuse their power with impunity.


Center for Constitutional Rights
National Police Accountability Project
National Conference of Black Lawyers

The Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs
DC-Area Detention Visitation Network
Black August Planning Organization
Physicians for Human Rights
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Just Detention International


  1. If you would like to be added to the letter, please contact: tortureprevention@gmail.com

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