1. Friday, November 27, 2015
Contact: Jessica Aiwuyor, 478.696.2061, Jessica@Fitzgibbonmedia.com
It might seem surprising that the anti-torture amendment in the National Defense
Authorization Act was written by retired activists from Minnesota. But for Jim Roth
and Roxanne Abbas of the Minnesota Peace Project, getting the anti-torture
language passed by Congress was a natural progression of the peace lobbying
they’ve been doing since they left their 9-5 jobs.
Minneapolis Activist Helps Create U.S. Congress Anti-Torture Legislation
Longtime Twin Cities human-rights activist James Roth played a key role in drafting
the anti-torture amendment included in the 2016 National Defense Authorization
Act (NDAA), which President Obama signed into law on November 25, 2015.
This marks the first time anti-torture provisions have been included in an NDAA.
The amendment significantly enhances existing laws—including the U.S. Anti-
Torture Act (1994) and the Detainee Treatment Act (2005)—in part by preventing
any torture program from being authorized in the future.
“Torture policies like waterboarding or mock executions are at odds with American
values and our Constitution, and I'm pleased that the NDAA bans these practices
with the Anti-Torture Amendment. It could not have happened without the
commitment of Jim Roth, who has fought for human rights for years. I know that he
and the Minnesota Peace Project will continue to work for peace and a more just
world, and I look forward to continuing the fight with everyone at MPP,"
Said Congressmember Keith Ellison on the land mark provision.
Anti-torture provisions in the NDAA stipulate that any person in the custody or
effective control of U.S. forces, including the CIA, can only be subjected to
interrogation techniques authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual on
Interrogations. (The Manual explicitly prohibits waterboading, forced nudity, stress
positions, sleep deprivation, forced rectal feeding, beatings, and other forms of
torture.) The amendment also requires that the Manual be regularly reviewed and
updated and made public, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross be
given access to every detainee.
Roth, a retired attorney and member of the Minnesota Peace Project (MPP)—a
group that lobbies Minnesota’s congressional delegation on military and foreign
policy matters—initially drafted an anti-torture bill in 2013, submitting it to
Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and to the state’s eight U.S. House
Representatives. Subsequently, he and other MPP members lobbied for passage of
an anti-torture bill as well as for release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report
2. After the report was issued, in December 2014, members of Senator Klobuchar’s
staff put Roth in direct contact with the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee,
which was then beginning to develop anti-torture legislation. He worked with the
committee to hone the bill, which in the end was largely based on his first draft.
Introduced in the Senate in June 2015 as the McCain-Feinstein Amendment to the
2016 NDAA, it passed 78–21 with Republicans and Democrats alike voting in favor.
There was no comparable amendment in the initial House version of the NDAA.
After wrangling in the Joint Armed Services Conference Committee, the amendment
was included in the Senate-House NDAA and passed with bipartisan majorities;
President Obama vetoed it on October 22 over budget issues. After a budget
compromise was reached, the revised NDAA passed in the House on November 5 by
a vote of 370–58. The Senate passed the revised NDAA on November 10 by a vote of
91–3, and the president signed the legislation.
“Jim Roth's efforts in helping secure this landmark legislation were extraordinary.
He was among those who worked tirelessly and relentlessly over several years to
pass this bill. It is a huge victory as the legislation makes clear that torture tactics
such as waterboarding, forced nudity, mock executions and other cruelty-as well as
the operation of black sites are clearly illegal. However, the bill imposes additional
restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo, and on closing that facility.
That goal will now require more effort from President Obama to follow through on
his commitment to close that facility," said Curt Goering, Executive Director of The
Center for Victims of Torture.
Based in Minneapolis, James Roth has been affiliated with various human rights-
related groups and organizations, including Amnesty International, the Center for
Victims of Torture, Advocates for Human Rights, Women against Military Madness,
Tackling Torture at the Top, the Constitution Project and the Center for