(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/26/05) – A coalition of religious, minority and civil liberties group* today issued a joint statement calling for the formation of a independent bi-partisan commission, similar to the one that investigated the 9/11 attacks, to examine the use and instigation of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (CID) by American military, security and intelligence personnel worldwide. Release of the statement by the Anti-Torture Coalition (ATC) is designed to coincide with the anniversary this week of revelations of torture and abuse at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. An editorial on the Abu Ghraib abuses in today’s Washington Post states: “Because there has never been a truly thorough or independent investigation — the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly rejected calls for a commission or a special prosecutor — we may never fully know how such widespread and serious war crimes came about.” SEE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/04/25/AR2005042501352.html
The ATC’s Call for an Independent Bi-Partisan Commission on Torture and CID: “As gruesome revelations of abuse and torture of detainees held by the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and America prisons continue to surface, our elected officials and law enforcement authorities have not held accountable those at the highest levels of responsibility. Some officials have even sought to justify these brutal actions on national security grounds. “The United Nations Convention against Torture, of which the United States is a signatory, clearly states that ‘no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.’ “The torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners must end because:
“1. Torture and CID are wrong. Human instinct repels at the image of bound and naked prisoners being subjected to whatever cruelties the mind can construct. It does not take a legal scholar to recognize that forcing a prisoner’s head under water, hanging him by his wrists or threatening rape by dogs must be prohibited by any civilized society.
“2. Torture and CID not useful. Throughout history, it has been clearly demonstrated that torture does not produce useful information for interrogators. It did not uncover ‘heretics’ in the Inquisition and it will not ensure public safety today. A recent letter to Congress from twelve retired high ranking military officials, including former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Shalikashvili, noted that the use of torture is not supported by established military doctrine and that ‘such interrogation methods produce unreliable results and often impede further intelligence collection.’
“3. Torture and CID dehumanize those who use it. No human being or society that engages in or allows torture can maintain respect for either human life or the rule of law.
“4. Torture and CID place all prisoners everywhere in danger. The use of torture by one side in a conflict is often used by the other side as a false justification for retaliation in kind. Americans worldwide are thus placed in greater danger of being tortured.
“5. Torture and CID harm America’s image and interests. We cannot expect people in other nations to accept our statements in support of human rights and freedom as long as we use torture or acquiesce in the use of torture by other nations.
“6. Torture and CID being used most often against prisoners of one faith. Every revelation of the use of torture by American personnel appears to involve a prisoner of the Muslim faith. This fact does not go unnoticed in an Islamic world already suspicious of American intentions toward Islam and Muslims. “Along with an end to the use of torture and CID by American personnel, there must be an end to so-called ‘renditions,’ or sending prisoners to other nations with the understanding that they will be tortured. This practice not only violates American and international laws and norms, it decreases respect worldwide for our nation’s values and goals.
“We therefore urge that an independent bi-partisan commission, with subpoena powers, be established to inform the American people about the extent of this stain on our national honor and to bring our nation’s actions into compliance with the Constitution, international law and long-standing American values of justice and respect for human dignity.”
* Signatories to the joint statement include: Amnesty International, USA Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Muslim American Political Action Committee (MAPAC) National Immigration Forum Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Veterans for Common Sense
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