Despite Unanswered Questions, Judiciary Committee Approves Gonzales Nomination

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted (10 to 8) today to endorse Alberto Gonzales as U.S. Attorney General. Despite support for Gonzales by all the Republican Committee members, other lawmakers and civil rights and human rights groups had cited grave concerns over the Bush administration’s pick.

Skeptical lawmakers and advocates had asked for another Committee hearing on the nominee. They said some of Gonzales’ answers at the first hearing on January 6 were not sufficient to allay doubts about his record on torture and human rights.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) urged senators to oppose confirmation of Gonzales if more information was not forthcoming.

“We strongly believe that an additional Committee hearing, the production of relevant documents under the Administration’s control which have not been previously made available, and more complete responses to written questions already posed are all necessary for a full and fair review of Mr. Gonzales’ confirmation,” the letter said. “If these actions are not taken prior to a Committee vote, then we urge you to oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales.”

In November 2004, dozens of civil and human rights groups sent a letterto members of the Judiciary Committee, raising questions about Gonzales’ record. Since then, the list of organizations signing on to the letter has grown.

In addition, many others, including religious leaders, military veterans, lawyers, and former judges, have expressed their concerns over Gonzales’ nomination, citing his role in setting the current administration’s policy on detention, interrogation, and torture.

“We want American service members who are captured to be protected from torture under international and U.S. laws,” said Charles Sheehan Miles, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. “Under the arguments put forth by Alberto Gonzales, our own servicemen and women would be subject to torture and we would have no recourse to the Geneva conventions.”

Several groups had outright opposed the nomination, citing mainly Gonzales’ record on torture and human rights.

“As a human rights organization committed to protecting the rule of law, we are compelled to take what is, for us, this unusual step. This is the second time in 27 years that Human Rights First has opposed a presidential nominee, and the first such action since 1981,” Human Rights First stated. “But in a nation committed to observing the rule of law as it is, not as power finds it convenient to be, we cannot accept the President’s decision here. We urge the Senate to reject Mr. Gonzales’ nomination.”

The civil rights community also addressed the importance of diversity in the President’s administration.

“The Leadership Conference recognizes the historic significance of Mr. Gonzales’ appointment as the first Hispanic American to serve as Attorney General,” said Henderson, who went on to note “LCCR’s significant concerns with Mr. Gonzales’ past law enforcement record and his failure during the confirmation process to clearly explain his positions on critical civil and human rights issues” as the basis for the organization’s position.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund expressed concerns about Gonzales’s record, while the National Council of La Raza endorsed the nomination.

Gonzales’s confirmation is expected to move to the Senate floor for a vote soon. 

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