US churches speak out against torture of prisoners

Ekklesia reports that, “the church-backed US National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is speaking out against a new executive order from President George W. Bush that broadly outlines the limits of how suspects may be questioned in the CIA’s terror interrogation programme.”

The order, which Bush signed in July 2007, bans torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, sexual abuse, acts intended to denigrate a religion or other degradation “beyond the bounds of human decency.” It pledges that detainees will receive adequate food, water and medical care and be protected from extreme heat and cold.

It does not, however, say what techniques are permitted during harsh questioning of suspects.

That has become a matter of debate in the United States and elsewhere, including with NRCAT, a coalition of more than 125 religious organizations, which has called on the US government to forswear the use of torture without exception.

“At the same time the executive order says it prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees, it allows the CIA to continue to use undefined and undisclosed ‘alternative interrogation techniques,’ thereby calling into question whether the prohibition is real,” said Linda Gustitus, president of NRCAT’s board of directors, in a recent statement issued by the anti-torture group.

The statement said that as people of faith, “who value our common humanity and our religious responsibility to treat all people with decency and the due process protections of civilized law, that we urge” President Bush to:

* Immediately stop the use of interrogation techniques that are “cruel and inhuman.”

* Disclose what alternative interrogation techniques are used. * Close all secret prisons.

* End the rendition of suspects to countries thought to use torture; and

* Provide the International Red Cross access to detainees held in US custody.

The statement also called on Congress to prohibit the use of any CIA funds for programmes or activities that fail to treat all persons detained with “decency and the protections of due process.”

Read it all here

For membership and information on NRCAT click here

For more on Ekklesia click here.

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