Center for Constitutional Rights Condemns History of Torture

January 23, 2007, New York - Authorities in San Francisco announced the arrests and indictments of former Black Panthers in the 1971 killing of police officer Sgt. John V. Young despite the use of torture to obtain confessions. Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) compared the documented torture by law enforcement of Black Panthers arrested in New Orleans in 1973 to the documented torture the U.S. government has practiced recently at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.

CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said, "The case against these men was built on torture and serves to remind us that the U.S. government, which recently has engaged in such horrific forms of torture and abuse at places like Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, has a history of torture and abuse in this country as well, particularly against African Americans."

CCR Attorney Kamau Franklin said, "These indictments are an attempt to rewrite history – the history of the Black Panthers, the history of COINTELPRO, and the history of the Civil Rights Movement."

In 1973, New Orleans police employed torture over the course of several days to obtain information from members of the Black Panthers who were stripped naked, beaten, blindfolded, covered in blankets soaked with boiling water, and had electric probes placed on their genitals, among other methods. A court ruled in 1974 that both San Francisco and New Orleans police had engaged in torture to extract a confession, and a San Francisco judge dismissed charges against three men in 1975 based on that ruling. Two years ago, a grand jury convened in San Francisco to reopen the case, but several of the men involved felt they were being wrongly compelled to testify and refused to attend the proceedings. CCR represents victims of torture by the U.S. at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, as well as Canadian rendition victim Maher Arar. In addition, CCR has filed suit against the NSA for the warrantless domestic spying program authorized by President Bush; the COINTELPRO program illegally spied on Black activists in the Sixties and Seventies and engaged in numerous unconstitutional acts against Civil Right s organizations.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

June 1, 2009