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US Religious Leaders Condemn Torture by Bush Administration

"Torture Is a Moral Issue"

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In June 2006, 27 top US religious leaders, including megachurch evangelical pastor Rick Warren, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Catholic Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, signed a statement urging the US to "Let America abolish torture now -- without exceptions."

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

The statement, issued by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, was published in newspapers across the nation. The new organization was formed to take formal stand against human rights abuse at U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Statements giners hail from a broad cross-section of religions and denominations, including Catholics, Jews, conservative evangelical Christians, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterians,Sikhs, Buddhists and more.

Also signing the statement is the National Council of Churches, which represents 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in US communities.

On June 16, 2006, the Pentagon was forced under the Freedom of Information Act to release to the American Civil Liberties Union more than 1,000 pages of reports and documents detailing torture of prisoners in the war on terror by US troops from 2003 to 2005.

The Bush Administration never replied to the religious leaders' statement.

The following is the statement issued by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.

TORTURE IS A MORAL ISSUE
A Statement of the National Religious Campaign against Torture

Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved --policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

Torture and inhumane treatment have long been banned by U.S. treaty obligations, and are punishable by criminal statute. Recent developments, however, have created new uncertainties. By reaffirming the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as torture, the McCain amendment, now signed into law, is a step in the right direction. Yet its implementation remains unclear.

The President's signing statement, which he issued when he signed the McCain Amendment into law, implies that the President does not believe he is bound by the amendment in his role as commander in chief. The possibility remains open that inhumane methods of interrogation will continue.

Furthermore, in a troubling development, for the first time in our nation's history, legislation has now been signed into law that effectively permits evidence obtained by torture to be used in a court of law. The military tribunals that are trying some terrorist suspects are now expressly permitted to consider information obtained under coercive interrogation techniques, including degrading and inhumane techniques and torture.

We urge Congress and the President to remove all ambiguities by prohibiting:

- Exemptions from the human rights standards of international law for any arm of our government.

- The practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby suspects are apprehended and flown to countries that use torture as a means of interrogation.

- Any disconnection of "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" from the ban against "torture" so as to permit inhumane interrogation.

- The existence of secret U.S. prisons around the world.

- Any denial of Red Cross access to detainees held by our government overseas.

We also call for an independent investigation of the severe human rights abuses at U.S. installations like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed? Let America abolish torture now --without exceptions.

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