Religious, security, and military leaders call for Presidential ban on torture

Religious, security, and military leaders call for Presidential ban on torture

By staff writers
25 Jun 2008

A group including Evangelical, Baptist, Catholic, and Other Religious Leaders, six former Secretaries of State for Defence, and top officials from every US administration since the Vietnam war, are today calling on the US President to issue an executive order banning torture.

The broad bipartisan coalition have issued a statement, saying that such a ban would improve national security and 'recommit America to its values'.

Their call coincides with ongoing debate over the treatment of prisoners and comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision upholding the right of habeas corpus for detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

It also comes after Amnesty International accused European governments of complicity and inaction over US-led rendition and secret detention, and the day before the UN's International Day in Support of Torture Victims.

The statement calls for the President to adopt an executive order affirming principles including the rule of law, an end to rendition, Congressional and judicial oversight of detention and interrogation, uniform national standards for all prisoner treatment, and an end to any practice the US would not like to see used on Americans, such as water boarding, through adherence to the "golden rule" - which states that no methods of interrogation will be authorised that would be unacceptable if used against Americans.

"Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American" the statement says.

"In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics which do not work, which endanger US personnel abroad, which discourage political, military, and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security.

"Our President must lead us by our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans."

Several signatories will participate in a telephone press conference call today (Wednesday) to discuss the statement.

The text of the full statement is as follows:

Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American. In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics which do not work, which endanger US personnel abroad, which discourage political, military, and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security.

Our President must lead us by our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans. Therefore, we believe the President of the United States should issue an Executive Order that provides as follows:

The “Golden Rule”
We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.

One National Standard
We will have one national standard for all US personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the US Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.

The Rule of Law
We will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross. We will in no circumstance hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances. In all cases, prisoners will have the opportunity to prove their innocence in ways that fully conform to American principles of fairness.

Duty to Protect
We acknowledge our historical commitment to end the use of torture and cruelty in the world. The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Checks and Balances
Congress and the courts play an invaluable role in protecting the values and institutions of our nation and must have and will have access to the information they need to be fully informed about our detention and interrogation policies.

Clarity and Accountability
All US personnel—whether soldiers or intelligence staff—deserve the certainty that they are implementing policy that complies fully with the law. Henceforth all US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.


Signatories to the statement include:

Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, McAfee School of Theology; President, Evangelicals for Human Rights
Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Alberto Mora, Former General Counsel, US Navy
General Paul J. Kern (USA-Ret.), Former Commanding General, US Army Materiel Command; led internal Army investigation of abuses at Abu Ghraib
Douglas A. Johnson, Executive Director, Center for Victims of Torture

Evangelical signatories include Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, (National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference), Rev. Dr. Richard Mouw, (Fuller Theological Seminary), Mr. David Neff, (Christianity Today Media Group), Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, (Northland - A Church Distributed), Mr. Gary Haugen (International Justice Mission), Dr. Robert Michael Franklin (Morehouse College), Rev. Richard Cizik (National Association of Evangelicals), Rev. Tony Campolo (Eastern University), Dr. Robert Andringa (Council for Christian Colleges & Universities), Rev. Dr. Paul Alexander (Haggard Graduate School of Theology, Azusa Pacific University), and Dr. Stanley Burgess (Regent University School of Divinity).

Other religious signatories include Bishop Thomas G. Wenski (Committee on International Justice and Peace, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), Rabbi Steve Gutow (Jewish Council of Public Affairs), Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick (Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.), Rev. Dr. William Shaw (National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.), Rabbi Eric Yoffe (Union for Reform Judaism), Dr. Ingrid Mattson (Islamic Society of North America), Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick (Former Archbishop of Washington, DC), Rabbi Gerald Serotta (Rabbis for Human Rights - North America)

National security and defense signatories include Former Secretaries of State George Shultz, Madeleine Albright, and Warren Christopher and Former Secretaries of Defense Harold Brown, William Perry and William Cohen, Former Deputy Secretaries of State Richard Armitage and John C. Whitehead; Former Under Secretaries of State Marc Grossman, Thomas R. Pickering, Frank Wisner, and Joseph Nye; Former Assistant Secretaries of State Lorne Craner and Harold Koh; Former Deputy Secretaries of Defense William H. Taft IV, Rudy deLeon, and John Hamre; Former Under Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Dr. Ashton B. Carter; Former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, and Samuel R. Berger; Harry McPherson, former Counsel to President Johnson; Former Senators Charles S. Robb (Chair of the Iraq Intelligence Commission), J. Bennett Johnston (Judge Advocate General Corps), John Glenn (also Colonel, USMC-Ret.), Sam Nunn, and Gary Hart; Former Governor Thomas Kean (9/11 Commission Chair); Former FBI security and counterterrorism expert Jack Cloonan; and retired CIA operations officer Burton Gerber.

Former military signatories include Retired Generals Joseph P. Hoar (USMC-Ret.), James L. Jones (USMC- Ret.), Paul J. Kern (USA-Ret.), Merrill A. McPeak (USAF- Ret., Former Chief of Staff, US Air Force), Joseph W. Ralston (USAF-Ret., former Vice Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff), Volney F. Warner (USA-Ret.); Lt. Generals Robert G. Gard, Jr. (USA-Ret.), Harry E. Soyster (USA-Ret., Army Intelligence); Retired Admirals Archie Clemins (USN-Ret.) and Greg G. Johnson (USN-Ret.); and former US Navy General Counsel Alberto J. Mora.

Keywords: rendition | torture
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