Division Joins Call to Dismiss Torture-based Charges
by Yvette Moore
The Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries joined Nobel Peace Prize laureates, human rights advocates and other religious leaders in an international call against torture-based testimonies, and the re-arrest of eight former Black Panthers on charges related to the 1971 death of a San Francisco police officer in a press conference in New York City, Nov. 30.
“We are here because the Women’s Division, the United Methodist Church, the World Council of Churches have taken a very clear stance against torture,” Women’s Division executive Lois Dauway said during the press conference, referencing the organizations she represented at the event. “Torture is a crime. We have a biblical mandate to stand against it. This evil must end.”
The international action calls on all appropriate legal and government authorities to:
- Investigate and end incidents of torture within the U.S. criminal justice system;
- Drop all current charges against the eight men Herman Bell, Ray Boudreaux, Richard Brown, Henry W. (Hanks) Jones, Jalil Muntqim (Anthony Bottom, Richard O’Neal, Harold Taylor and Francisco rearrested on the basis of torture-induced testimonies;
- Convene official investigations into the ongoing legacy and possible continued operation of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) and similar programs, with a view towards true reconciliation and human rights based on internationally recognized standards and principles; and
- Immediate release on humanitarian grounds of Herman Bell and Jalil Muntaqim, each of whom have served more than 30 years of disproportionately long sentences based on the COINTELPRO criminalization of the Black Panther Party and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
Signers of the international call include: 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa; Darryl Jordan of the American Friends Service Committee, who won the price in 1947; William Wardlaw of Amnesty International, who won the prize in 1977; Marie Dennis of Pax Christi International; and Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams of the Community of Peace People of Northern Ireland, both of whom won the prize in 1976
In 1973 Harold Taylor, John Bowman, who died recently, and Ruben Scott were arrested and tortured in New Orleans by policeman assisted by two San Francisco detectives. The torture included beatings, sensory deprivation, the use of cattle prods, plastic bags for near asphyxiation and electric probes placed on sensitive parts of their bodies.
“That was after the judge told them not to question me without a lawyer present,” Mr. Taylor said during the press conference of the torture he endured. “First they took me to a room to see what they had done to Ruben Scott. He was in a fetal position, naked laying in urine and feces. They said to me, ‘You don’t have to say anything yet. We’re going to work on you a while.’ When this happens to you, you can’t scream because your muscles tense up. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I told them, ‘I’ll say anything you want me to say.’”
Charges were dropped against the men in 1975 and 1976 after the court ruled San Francisco and New Orleans police tortured several of the men to obtain the information alleged in the criminal charges. The case was reopened in January without grand jury indictment, which is permissible in California.
“I used to dream about what happened to me in New Orleans in black and white, but now everything is in color,” Mr. Taylor said. “I never told my family about this because I was so ashamed of what they did to me. They stripped me of something I can’t get back.”