*An earlier version of this story misspelled the Rev. Richard Killmer's name.
COLUMBIA — End U.S.-sponsored torture forever.
That was the theme of the keynote talk given by Mohamed Elsanousi and the *Rev. Richard Killmer on Saturday evening at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri. Elsanousi and Killmer are both involved in national organizations dedicated to eradicating torture from the U.S.
Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said he and other members of the organization became involved in the anti-torture movement after seeing the graphic photos of the abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib. A Presbyterian minister, Killmer said he believes torture is a moral issue and is under no circumstances tolerable.
"It's wrong to harm people and to not respect the dignity of each person," Killmer said. "Even if (torture) worked, it'd still be wrong."
Killmer said he believes torture is not an effective means of interrogation because people who are being tortured will say anything to end it. He cited how Sen. John McCain would name the starting lineup of the Green Bay Packers when his north-Vietnamese captors would torture him for the names of other Americans in the territory.
Killmer also said he believes the use of torture has been detrimental to national security because it makes allies of the U.S. more hesitant to trust the American military and because it has been a recruiting tool for militant groups such as al-Qaeda.
NRCAT has four main areas of work, Killmer said:
- Ensuring there is no further U.S.-sponsored torture of detainees
- Ending the use of prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and detention centers
- Ending U.S. support of torture in foreign states
- Ending anti-Muslim bigotry in the U.S.
In order to accomplish these four goals, NRCAT has lobbied to have Guantanamo Bay closed, have Congress release the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA Torture and organized on a grassroots level to "change the hearts and minds" of Americans.
Local, public meetings, like the one held Saturday night, are important to spreading NRCAT’s message and engaging the public, Killmer said.
Maureen Dickmann, pastor at Rock Bridge Christian Church, attended the meeting because she thinks it would be "good to end torture," she said. She also said she might find something from the discussion to bring back to her congregation Sunday.
"I think it’s important for Christians to take a stand against torture," Dickmann said. "It should be a no brainer, right?"
Elsanousi, interfaith and community director at the Islamic Society of North America, echoed her sentiment.
"Seeing another human being tortured is just wrong," Elsanousi said. "Human beings need to be honored, respected and loved."
Killmer jokingly said he would love it if NRCAT could disband, because that would mean the problem of torture would have been eradicated. He said right now, the most important things NRCAT is working on are curbing the use of prolonged solitary confinement and fighting for the public release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA torture.
Killmer said he believes if NRCAT can get the information about torture out to the public, it will be easier to ensure it does not happen again in the future.
"We want to make sure nothing like this ever happens again," Killmer said. "I want to make sure my eight, almost nine, grandchildren grow up in a country without torture."
Supervising editor is Katie Moritz.