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Durbin, Leahy call on Administration to take an Unequivocal Position Against the use of Torture-Derived Evidence

WASHINGTON – In response to a new letter from the Biden Administration, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today released a joint statement expressing disappointment with the Administration for failing to take a firm and unequivocal position against the use of torture-derived evidence:

“This is not a difficult question: Are we going to stand on principle and repudiate unequivocally the use of torture, or are we going to tie ourselves in legal knots to justify the use of evidence derived from the torture of human beings? It’s clear what the answer should be. Our nation’s self-defeating resort to torture after the September 11th attacks has severely compromised America’s moral standing in the world, and has served as a recruiting tool for terrorists everywhere. Now, more than two decades later, we should understand the imperative of adhering to our values. Torture is the tool of despots and dictators—not free nations. We call on the Biden administration to unequivocally refuse to utilize any and all evidence derived from torture.”

In a May letter to Attorney General Garland, Defense Secretary Austin, and Secretary of State Blinken, the Senators called on the Administration to uphold President Biden’s unequivocal commitment to repudiate torture and adhere to U.S. obligations under the Torture Convention. Prompted by repeated attempts by Guantanamo Bay military commission prosecutors to use evidence derived from torture, the Senators asked the Departments of Justice and Defense to state whether they would “adhere, without exception, to the United States’ obligation not to use any evidence obtained from torture.”

Today’s joint statement follows the Administration’s response to the Senators’ May letter—more than two months later—in which the Administration failed to repudiate the use of torture-derived evidence in all circumstances. Instead, the Administration left the door open to using “derivative evidence,” saying it would, “articulate its position in future fillings.”

Durbin and Leahy have long advocated for closing Guantanamo Bay, ending indefinite detention, and upholding the prohibition on torture. In April 2021, Durbin and Leahy led a letter to President Joe Biden expressing their support for finally closing the detention facility. Three months later, Durbin called on Attorney General Garland to ensure that the Department of Justice’s approach to ongoing detention at Guantanamo Bay reflects the values of our nation. And in December 2021, Durbin chaired a hearing on closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay for good.