Press Release

December 10, 2007
Helsinki Commission Field Hearing Held at University of Maryland


Today at the University of Maryland at College Park, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-MD, Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), chaired a field hearing examining torture and other forms of banned treatment, with Commission Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings, D-FL.  The hearing entitled, “Is it torture yet?” focused on what  constitutes torture or other forms of prohibited ill-treatment, what legal norms apply, and what is known about the effectiveness of various interrogation methods.

During the hearing, both Senator Cardin and Congressman Hastings were critical of United States policy on torture and expressed their concerns over the destruction of CIA videotapes of terror suspects under interrogation.  It was also noted that today is

International Human Rights Day, a day which commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights nearly 60 years ago. 

“I deeply regret that, six decades after the adoption of the Universal Declaration, it is necessary to have a hearing on torture and, more to the point, I regret that the United States’ own policies and practices must be a focus of our consideration,” said
Senator Cardin. Congressman Hastings also noted:  “I am profoundly frustrated by the damage that has been done to America’s good name and credibility by the documented instances of abuse that have occurred in the context of our country’s effort to combat terrorism, and by the erosion of the legal principles which make torture and other forms of ill-treatment a crime.” 

Expert testimony
was received from Ms. Devon Chaffee, Associate Attorney,
Human Rights First; Dr.
Thomas C. Hilde, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland-College Park;
Dr. Christian Davenport, Professor of Political Science, University of Maryland-College Park, and Senior Fellow and Director of Research at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management; and 
Mr. Malcom Nance, Director, Special Readiness Services International and Director, International Anti-Terrorism Center for Excellence.

Copies of the full opening statements of Senator Cardin and Congressman Hastings will be posted on the Helsinki Commission’s website (


The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.