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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill Town Council passes resolution to support state torture investigation

Johnston Regional Airport is the headquarters of Aero Contractors Ltd. Fences surround the company’s facilities.

Johnston Regional Airport is the headquarters of Aero Contractors Ltd. Fences surround the company’s facilities.

The Chapel Hill Town Council passed a resolution supporting the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture to investigate the state’s involvement in torture practices after 9/11. 

NCCIT is backed by a report by the UNC School of Law, which said the state played a role in the CIA’s torture program through the operation of Aero Contractors, an aviation company located at the Johnston County Airport in Smithfield, North Carolina. 

According to the report, Aero operated from at least 2001 and 2006 as part of the CIA’s operation in which U.S. agents captured, imprisoned and interrogated people without legal representation. 

The report also said the detainees were subjected to torture such as forced nudity, waterboarding and sleep deprivation during these flights. 

As an American private entity, it's illegal for Aero to be involved in the unlawful acts of secret retention and torture, the report said. 

According to the petition submitted to the council by NCCIT, torture provides misleading information, is illegal and unethical, causes trauma to detainees and to those who carry out the torture and is a misuse of taxpayer dollars. 

Chapel Hill Town Council Member Michael Parker said the council chose to support the resolution because they believe those involved need to be held accountable. 

“Torturing people and using U.S. and North Carolina facilities with extraordinary rendition to then torture people is fundamentally wrong," Parker said. “We want to express our solidarity with those who are both against it and who are investigating it to see what happens.”

Parker said the council's support will enable the NCCIT’s work to go forward.

Members of NCCIT say the support is a product of many years of work.

“Receiving support from any local government entity, or individual, or citizen is extremely important for the commission’s work and we are thrilled to have the support of the Chapel Hill council,” said NCCIT Executive Director Catherine Read. 

NCCIT’s mission is to address the lack of government transparency, but Christina Cowger, a member of the NCCIT's Board of Directors, said the commission does not have the power to create transparency in government. As a non-governmental entity, its main task is driven by citizen discussion. 

“What it can do is break through the silence that has existed in this state and in this country about the systematic use of torture by a government," Cowger said.

Cowger said one of the goals of the commission is to help people understand what the costs of torture practices have been, including human rights abuse and an unsafe environment in the country.

“These [are the] kinds of concerns the public has not really had a chance to focus on, because the record of U.S. torture has remained hidden for the most part,” Cower said. “What a non-governmental commission can do is bring that to the floor and say this is a conversation that we need to have.”

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