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Respect for God-Given Human Dignity Undergirds Faith Community's Call For Due Process for Guantanamo Detainees, National Council of Churches Says

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Background:

March 8, 2004, WASHINGTON, D.C. - Respect for every person’s God-given human dignity demands that the detainees held by the United States government at Guantanamo Bay be accorded their right to due process under U.S. and international law, the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC), said today.

That is why the NCC, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and Peaceful Tomorrows (9/11 families) have joined with families of Guantanamo detainees to demand that these prisoners either be charged and afforded an opportunity to defend themselves or released for lack of evidence, as each individual case warrants, he said.

March 8-10, the NCC, CCR and ACLU are hosting a delegation from the London-based Guantanamo Human Rights Commission in a push for due process rights for the Guantanamo detainees. European families of Guantanamo detainees are being accompanied by Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, the commission’s co-founders, along with other prominent members of the arts, religious and political communities.

Their schedule began with a morning news conference called by the National Council of Churches and held in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which currently has before it a case filed on January 14, 2004, by the CCR asserting the Guantanamo detainees’ right to due process. This assertion is supported in an amicus brief signed by the NCC and ACLU, among others.

Later today (March 8), Guantanamo detainees’ families and others will send letters to the First Family - most likely, by fax - and join with U.S. religious leaders in a silent walk from the JW Marriott (1331 Pennsylvania Ave., NW) to the White House, where they will gather momentarily for prayer. An evening interfaith service of prayer and reflection at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church will focus on the issue of due process. Guest artists are to include Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) and his daughter Bethany Yarrow, as well as the InKlein Quartet.

Dr. Edgar said the National Council of Churches -- a collaborative organization of 36 Christian denominations that in turn comprise 50 million adherents in 140,000 congregations nationwide -- makes no claims about the guilt or innocence of the Guantanamo detainees.

Rather, he said, “we are here because the principle of due process under the law also is being held prisoner on Guantanamo. We are determined to protect and defend this fundamental right. Without it, no one can be assured of fair treatment under the law. Without it, any one could be arbitrarily stripped of the human dignity that God confers on all people.”

The National Council of Churches hopes to hold the U.S. government to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and to the provisions of international law, Dr. Edgar said. “We are shocked that leaders of our nation would abandon one of the core principles that has made our democracy a beacon of freedom in the world,” he said.

NCC also is concerned for the humanitarian treatment of prisoners everywhere, including the Guantanamo detainees. In light of that concern, in December of 2003 the National Council of Churches requested permission of Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft to take an interfaith delegation to Guantanamo to monitor the physical, mental and spiritual condition of the detainees.

“We were denied,” Dr. Edgar reported, “but today we are renewing our request, in a letter to President George W. Bush.”

Continued Dr. Edgar, a United Methodist clergyperson, “The National Council of Churches has said that the denial of rights that inhere in the worth of human beings before God are not only a crime against humanity. They are a sin against God. All faiths share this basic teaching…. All persons are connected in the family of God. My rights, your rights and the rights of the detainees are inseparable.”

-end-

Read Dr. Edgar's "Statement On Due Process and the Guantanamo Prisoners" as prepared for this morning's news conference.

NCC Media Contacts: Leslie Tune: 202-544-2350 x11 or 202-297-2191 (mobile); Colleen O’Connor, 202-277-0125.


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