Statement Regarding the Use of Torture By the United States
InterReligious Council of Central New York

On December 13, 2005, the Board of Directors of the InterReligious Council of Central New York (IRC) unanimously approved the IRC's issuing of the following Statement on Torture. This statement will be sent to Senator Charles Schumer, Senator Hillary Clinton and Congressman James Walsh in addition to President George W. Bush.

The terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001 were a defining moment in the history of the United States. The events of that day resulted in many changes both domestically and internationally as the United States and other nations responded to the threat of terrorism. Domestically, the United States Congress passed the Patriot Act and voted to establish the Department of Homeland Security. Internationally, the United States declared war on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, established a policy of pre-emptive war, and declared war based on this doctrine with the government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

While there has been ongoing debate from all perspectives on the justification for these responses to the threat of terrorist attacks around the world and within our own country, there has been a growing concern regarding the revelations of the abuse and torture of persons - both combatants and non-combatants - who have been detained by our government in Guantánamo Bay, prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other places around the globe.

The United States is a signatory nation to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in which the rights of prisoners of war, civilians in occupied territories, detainees and other imprisoned combatants are guaranteed and protected. Among these rights is protection from torture both physical and psychological, and from abuse of the detainees' rights to medical care, expression of religious faith, and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." (Part I, article 3.1c)

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 declared that signatory nations would agree to abide by the articles of the Convention in all conflicts with other signatory nations (Part II, Article 13). Of concern to many throughout our nation is the policy at the highest levels of the federal government to deny persons from combatant countries and groups the protections of the Geneva Conventions and due process according to US military or civilian legal standards.

The InterReligious Council of Central New York works to promote the inclusion of, respect for, and compassion toward all persons within our community regardless of race, creed, gender or nationality. While the IRC acknowledges the desire of the United States to promote "liberty and justice for all" throughout the world we strongly feel and declare that the policy, intention or threat to use torture against our enemies defeats these national aims, undermines the core values of our country, is inhumane, and is contrary to the beliefs and teachings of our faith communities. We believe that all persons are endowed by the Creator with human dignity. Therefore, we speak out against the use of torture in any and all of its forms. Furthermore,

We call upon President George W. Bush and the members of the United States Congress to reaffirm the commitment of the United States government to uphold the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in its entirety and apply it to all individuals charged as enemy combatants in the war on terror in the custody of the United States, whether they are in or outside our nation's boundaries or delivered to another country.

We further call upon President Bush as Commander in Chief to order all units and organizations of the United States government under his command - military, non-military and paramilitary - to cease and desist from any action that is defined as torture or prisoner abuse by the Geneva Conventions of 1949 in all conflicts in which our nation is, and, or will be involved whether declared or undeclared, whether with a sovereign nation, other governmental entity, or non-governmental organization.

-Reverend William Redfield, President, IRC Board of Directors
-Dr. James B. Wiggins, IRC Executive Director