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Chicago City Council Resolution to Make the City “Torture Free”

November 4, 2011

On November 2, 2011, Alderman Joe Moore will introduce a resolution against torture to the Chicago City Council.  To read the resolution, please see this page.  The Illinois Coalition against Torture (ICAT), a coalition of different organizations and individuals opposed to torture, approached Alderman Moore and asked him to sponsor the resolution.  He readily did so.  Should the resolution pass, Chicago will be the first city in the United States to oppose all forms of torture.

ICAT formed in the summer of 2010 to bring together various groups and individuals who consider torture immoral and illegal and want it to end.  The coalition works to end U.S. government torture on all levels:  from the local, to the state, to the international.  In terms of Chicago, ICAT joined with many other committees to condemn the Chicago police’s use of torture on prisoners, most especially against Black men.  The coalition held several well attended educational programs and demonstrations to build public awareness that police Commander Jon Burge and men under his command commonly tortured roughly 110 Black men and one Black woman in order to extract “confessions” from them from the 1970s through 1991.  These confessions were then used by the city to convict these people, despite the fact that a large number of them had not committed the crime for which they were being charged.  In June 2010 Jon Burge was convicted of perjury and sentenced to four and one half years in prison.  The conviction of Burge on perjury charges stemmed from the fact that he had previously lied under oath when asked if he had committed torture.

The resolution also calls for an end to torture throughout Illinois, specifically in the state prison system.  In June 2011, Amnesty International, the respected global organization that works to end torture and inhuman treatment and the release of political prisoners, recently condemned the use of solitary confinement in the case of three prisoners held in Angola Prison, Louisiana.  Many Illinois state prisons routinely consign prisoners to solitary confinement, which means that they are locked in their cells for twenty three to twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, deprived of contact with other human beings and lacking mental or physical stimuli.  The result is not rehabilitation, which is no longer the goal, but the mental, emotional, and physical deterioration of the inmate.

The third level of torture that both the resolution and ICAT oppose is that practiced by the U.S. government in its so-called “war against terrorism.”  Former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney supported the use of torture against those they considered potential or actual threats to the United States.  In the name of defending national security, both men gave the green light to U.S. military and intelligence forces to torture people.  As has been well documented, U.S. forces in Guantánamo, and elsewhere, tortured captured individuals under their control, subjecting them to treatment that violates international law.  Although President Obama promised during his presidential campaign to shut Guantánamo down, it remains open.

In order to promote the resolution, ICAT has circulated a petition online as well as a hard copy one.  To date, more than 2,000 people have signed the online petition (see and or a hard copy.  ICAT plans to continue to gather signatures until the day the City Council votes on the resolution.  At this point, the vote is expected to take place in early December 2011.

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