Voice of the silenced
legal officer for National Security and
Counterterrorism, is to address the lack of available
remedies for individual victims of torture in the US.
Because the ACLU had tried repeatedly to seek damages for these victims and was denied, she pursued
other avenues outside of the country to find justice.
Two examples of this were al Nashiri v Poland
and al Nashiri vs Romania, litigation on behalf of
Guantanamo prisoner Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri
before the European Court of Human Rights, challenging the role of Poland and Romania in the CIA’s
secret detention program.
“It’s very tough to be doing work on behalf of people
who may be perceived by the public as unpopular,”
Gupta said, drawing on how Singh’s character allows
her to do what she does.
“And it’s very tough to be meeting and talking and
engaging with people who have been torture victims,
who have been absolutely broken and tortured pur-
suant to government sanctioned torture. I think that
the emotional weight of that must be overwhelming
and tremendous, and yet Amrit is somebody who per-
“She’s somebody who has a very open and calm de-
meanor about her, and yet she is very disarming. She
always possesses all of the facts, and is ready to mar-
shal all of the evidence that she has meticulously gath-
ered to basically blow the lid off of these very secret
government programs. And without people like her
who have the emotional and intellectual fortitude to
do that, I think that there would be a lot less known
about what governments are doing in our name in
gross violation of fundamental human rights allover
Singh’s most recent and highly publicized contribution to
exposing governments’ abuse of power in the name of coun-
terterrorism — the second piece of her current work along
with directly trying to help victims of torture — is
her Globalizing Torture report.
The 216-page report details the torture of 136 known victims and lists 54 foreign governments that participated in
Gupta — who is much respected for her advocacy and is
quoted extensively on racial and criminal justice issues —
says Singh worked on the report for three years, but the
process hardly included her being holed up in a quiet office.
Throughout the time of her painstaking research and
writing, she was working around the world on the litigation
in the European Court of Human Rights, speaking at conferences, continuing her data collection globally, and building up other potential forms of advocacy for victims.
One can only imagine the work ethic and dedication
“She meticulously, methodically, documented the way in
which the US government had basically enlisted over a
quarter of the countries in this world to participate in a torture program, and was able to document, country by country, what their role was, how they participated. And the
Amrit Singh makes a rare appearance at a community event to accept the South Asian Bar Association of New York’s Access
to Justice Leadership Award in 2006.
The attorney, who then represented the American Civil Liberties Union, was honored for her work as a counsel in the
ACLU vs Department of Defense case, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed to seek records relating to the torture of
detainees held in US custody abroad. She was also recognized for her work in the Ali vs Rumsfeld case, which was filed against
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld on behalf of Iraqi and Afghan detainees who were tortured in American custody.
report, because of Amrit’s credibility and the amount of
work that went into it, just created a huge kind of explosion
in the media... all over the world. It’s stunning — I don’t
think I’ve ever seen one report have that kind of impact,
What’s truly stunning is that through all of this, Singh
finds a way to keep a semblance of balance in her life. Her
career is front and center in the public eye, but Gupta, as a
friend, emphasized that she has a variety of interests outside
of work, a critical element of her ability to do what she does
and withstand the intellectual and emotional strain that
must go into it.
Specifically, Singh is a talented singer and has a love for
music. And, Gupta stressed, she is a funny person, constantly making her laugh, but also deeply genuine with no
tolerance for inauthenticity.
“She will not leave any stone unturned in order to expose
wrongdoing,” Gupta said. “She’s someone who has a very
dogged commitment to human rights, and you can see that
in the trajectory of her career. She is a ridiculously smart
person with a very prestigious resume, but she’s also one of
the most fundamentally decent, kind, open human beings I
know. So, it’s just been a real privilege to have her as a close
‘There has been virtually
no accountability in the US for
that’s something that cannot stand. Not only must officials
be held accountable, but there needs to be further disclosure about the extent of these operations, the victims.
There needs to be acknowledgement by the United States.
If Canada can apologize and compensate Maher Arar,
why is it that the United States, which was the principal
ringleader in all of these operations, cannot issue a similar
apology, not only to Maher Arar, but a number of other victims like Khalid El-Masri who were wrongfully abducted
and tortured? ;
This interview has been excerpted and published with
kind permission from Democracy Now.
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