Asheville event to explore N.C. complicity in U.S. torture

Press release from event organizers:

Asheville, NC. — Mr. Frank Goldsmith and Ms. Christina Cowger will speak June 1 in Asheville on the recently formed NC Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) and on North Carolina’s history in extraordinary rendition and torture by the US government.

Mr. Goldsmith is Co-Chair of the Commission, and an area civil rights attorney who has represented Guantanamo prisoners.  He will speak on the founding, purpose, and significance of the NC Commission of Inquiry on Torture.

Ms. Cowger, active in anti-torture efforts since 2005 through NC Stop Torture Now, will speak on North Carolina’s connection to torture and how communities can support the NCCIT’s inquiry.

This event will be held at the Land of the Sky UCC at 15 Overbrook Place, Asheville, NC 28805. This will be from 6 to 8 PM on June 1, 2017. Childcare will be available. The public is invited, and donations will be accepted. Donations should be directed to NC Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT).

“Extraordinary rendition” refers to the secret transfer of captives by the US government among overseas locations, where they were held incommunicado and tortured during interrogation.  A large body of evidence shows that the CIA maintained important infrastructure for its extraordinary rendition program at the taxpayer-funded airports in Johnston and Lenoir counties in North Carolina. As a U.S. Senate report confirms, at least 20 CIA detainees were transported to torture by NC-based planes, pilots and crews.  Human rights organizations and journalists have documented another 14 such cases not included in the Senate report.

The NC Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) was formed to seek accountability for North Carolina’s role in extraordinary rendition and insist on justice for victims of U.S. torture.

The NCCIT has established a high-profile panel of 10 Commissioners.  At a public hearing in fall 2017, the Commissioners will receive and record testimony from legal and human rights experts, former government officials, torture survivors, and others on the US torture program and the facilitating role that North Carolina played in hosting infrastructure for it.  Commissioners will issue a report following the hearing with recommendations to elected officials on measures to address responsibility and prevent further torture.

Mr. Frank Goldsmith is an Asheville area civil rights attorney who has represented detainees imprisoned at the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He is the author of a chapter in a book entitled “Obama’s Guantánamo,” a collection of perspectives from fourteen lawyers who have represented these men. Mr. Goldsmith is a co-chair of the NCCIT, and had this to say in a recent op-ed in the The News & Observer: “NCCIT is a non-partisan, non-government entity working to expose the truth about torture and the damage it inflicted at the local, state and national levels. I am thrilled to be among the group of 10 commissioners that NCCIT has selected to investigate and collect testimony to understand North Carolina’s role in supporting the torture program and ultimately make recommendations for local, state, and federal officials to prevent our state’s resources and infrastructure again being used for programs that are in blatant violation of international norms and laws.”

Ms. Christina Cowger is a longtime activist on North Carolina’s role in the US torture program. She is coordinator of NC Stop Torture Now.  In an op-ed early this year in The News & Observer, she stated: “As our new North Carolina leaders take office, we face a crossroads on torture. We can continue pretending. Or we can acknowledge that North Carolina has played a role, and seek full federal transparency about that role. We can call on the federal government to seek justice and redress. And we can forbid North Carolina public facilities and private companies from being utilized to aid and abet torture.”

Both Mr. Goldsmith and Ms. Cowger are available for press interviews. Please contact Ken Jones or Susan Oehler for more information or to arrange interviews with either Mr. Goldsmith or Ms. Cowger.
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