Recently, two stalwart champions of justice, Christina Cowger and Allyson Caison, received the annual Joshua Heintz Humanitarian Award from the Robert H. Jackson Center in Syracuse, NY. The mission of the Jackson Center is to “advance public awareness and appreciation of the principles of justice and the rule of law as embodied in the achievements and legacy of Robert H. Jackson, U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Chief U.S. Prosecutor at Nuremberg.” The Heintz Award “recognizes individuals who demonstrate compassion, vision, and dedication in pursuit of international humanitarian justice.”
Christina and Allyson received the Heintz award for their efforts to bring justice and accountability to those harmed by North Carolina’s role in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program. For 12 years they have continued to speak up and call for accountability in the face of government inaction and waning public interest. Their enduring witness is a testimony to citizen activism and we are proud to have a long association with them and with the work of NC Stop Torture Now, the organization they helped found.
As Americans struggled to interpret the new post 9/11 world, our government engaged in behavior that betrays many of the values we purport to hold dear as Americans. Many of the people who authorized torture behind closed doors are the ones who stated publicly: “American values are under attack.” Indeed, our values were under attack and not just by those named as our public enemies. Our values were also under attack by our own government, though few of us knew it at the time.
When news surfaced about the “ghost plane,” concerned citizens in N.C. began to pay closer attention and helped organize others to do the same. They appealed to government officials to admit the truth and to the Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Intelligence, our very own Senator Richard Burr, to release the 6,700-page report on U.S. treatment of detainees in the post-9/11 period. No confession came from government leaders. Christina and Allyson were undeterred.
The soon to be released report from the North Carolina Commission of the Inquiry on Torture helps understand the truth of the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program. The Commission’s work would never have been possible without the stalwart determination of Christina Cowger and Allyson Caison. The report will be released at 11:00 am, September 27, at the Old State Capitol. Vigils are planned that night and in the coming days to offer North Carolinians a place to begin the process of confession, repentance, and restitution. The steadfastness of Christian and Allyson helps us all be more faithful people.