01/13/2012 12:12 pm ET

Chicago City Council Committee Approves Anti-Torture Resolution

A City Council committee on Thursday approved a resolution declaring Chicago a "torture-free zone," after years of alleged police misconduct gave the city a bad reputation when it comes to the treatment of suspects.

The city's Committee on Human Relations approved the resolution Thursday declaring that "the Mayor and the City Council of the City of Chicago stand firm against all forms of torture and inhuman treatment, and hereby proclaim Chicago to be a torture-free zone," CBS Chicago reports.

The measure was introduced last fall by Ald. Joe Moore (49th) in order to send a strong message against a practice that human rights advocates see as all too common throughout the world, including Chicago, home of the notorious Jon Burge.

Though the resolution does not carry the weight of a law, its proponents say it is significant in that, if approved by the full council, Chicago would become the first U.S. city to officially oppose all forms of torture. The Illinois Coalition Against Torture collected over 3,500 signatures in support of the resolution. They joined Amnesty International and other groups in pushing for the measure.

Margaret Power of the coalition told In These Times that "torture on all levels must be ended. ... Those who torture are criminals."

"It is destructive of those who are being tortured and it also destroys those who are doing the torture and, most of all, it also destroys a society that condones it," Power said, according to CBS.

As In These Times points out, torture is not explicitly outlawed in Illinois and those found guilty of such assaults are typically charged with lesser crimes which often carry short statutes of limitations.

Burge is currently serving a four-and-a-half year prison sentence after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for failing to disclose how much he knew about the police torture going on under his tenure in Chicago. The former Chicago police commander allegedly oversaw the torture of at least 100 prisoners over the course of nearly two decades. Many of those prisoners claimed they were tortured into confessing to crimes they did not commit.

Last month, Eric Caine, an alleged victim of torture at the hands of Burge, filed suit against the city. He spent over 25 years behind bars for a 1986 double murder he did not commit and claims he was tortured at the infamous South Side police station dubbed "the House of Screams." Caine's lawsuit is, to date, the seventh pending litigation against the city and Burge related to claims of police torture.