What does Accountability mean for those who could have stopped the Burge torture?


We need to start by asking why NO ONE has ever been charged with torturing anyone? Despite hundreds of thousands of pages of civil suits, reports including those by Robert Goldston of the Office of Professional Standards, Amnesty International, and the conviction of Jon Burge of perfury for denying he ever tortured anyone, Burge is rightly blamed but . Multiple citizen groups have fought for years to bring out the truth and the People's Law Office has waged a decades long battle for justice. John Conroy's Reader columns eventually brought the Burge torture cases to a broader public. Still NO ONE has been held accountable for what Federal Appelatte Judge Diane Woods said was:

“ [A] mountain of evidence indicates that torture was an ordinary occurrence at the Area Two station of the Chicago Police Department.....Indeed, the alleged conduct is so extreme that, if proven, it would fall within the prohibitions established by the United Nations Convention Against Torture ("CAT"), which defines torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession . . .," thereby violating the fundamental human rights principles that the United States is committed to uphold. . . .

Federal Judge Joan Humphrey Lefcow, at Jon Burge's sentencing said the obvious. If someone in authority had told Burge to stop after the first incidient, we would not have had decades-long pattern of torture in Chicago. So how can we apply Lefcow's challenge to Chicago. What does it mean to hold specific public officials accountable, and what should be done?

We think an International Tribunal should be convened to look at this issue. We are not lawyers, but our research suggests there are several significant issues to be inerstigate:

1. Under international law, torture is a crime against humanity and no statute of limitations can be imposed. Both state and federal courts have used the statute of limitations as a reason why no prosecutions have taken place. Prosecution of crimes against humanity are mandatory under international law and the Convention Against Torture.

2.While the torturers committed crimes, the cover-up of the crimes suggests the possible use of federal conspiracy laws. Indeed every police commissioner up to Jody Weis and every single mayor up to Mr. Emmanuel are potential defendants in a conspiracy indictment. And as this site shows, the list goes on.

3.Under Illinois State Law, police routinely charge gang members with "accountability" if "either before or during the commission of an offense, and with the intent to promote or facilitate that commission, he or she solicits, aids, abets, agrees, or attempts to aid that other person in the planning or commission of the offense"  (720 ILCS 5/5-2) (from Ch. 38, par. 5-2). It seems that the accountality statutes could be applied to those, like the CPD Superintendents and States Attorneys, who aided Burge and his cronies in avoiding prosecution for their crimes.

4. There is a moral dimension to accountabilty as well. Stanley Milgram's and Phillip Zimbardo's studies on "following orders" point out if anyone objects, obedience is less likely. If people in authority object to harmful behavior, it encourages others to take a stand. In Chicago, almost NO ONE had the moral courage to say this is wrong and bring the charges of torture to the attention of the public. Law enforcement and political figures alike refused to take a stand and thus can be held accountable for torture continuing for decades.

5. Finally, as the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Africa and elsewhere have found, admitting the truth is the first step toward reconciliation. But the next step is restitution. This means access to treatment, as at Chicago's world famous Institute for Survivors of Torture and Human Rights Abuses or The Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture. It means financial settlements but also job training and access to programs that can help the survivor deal with and overcome the horror of torture.