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National Council of Churches general secretary
says closing of Abu Ghraib is a chance to renounce torture

New York, March 8, 2006 -- The general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA urged the U.S. government to use the closing of Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib Prison as an opportunity "to renew our resolve as a nation that torture and abuse must never be weapons for our defense."

The Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar said Abu Ghraib is "a dark icon of history" because it was the site of torture and abuse at the hands of both Iraqis and Americans. Both sides were convinced "that their heinous acts were necessary to preserve a regime or protect other lives," he said.

But Edgar said it is "illogical, immoral and profane" to believe torture is an acceptable means of preserving safety and freedom.

He compared Abu Ghraib to the U.S. retention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and repeated a request issued last month that the NCC be allowed to send a "small interfaith delegation" to Guantanamo "to assure the world -- and ourselves -- that our country is committed to the rule of law and humane justice."

Edgar also repeated his support for a United Nations report that calls upon the U.S. to close Guantanamo and either prosecute prisoners or release them. "This is the urgent call of civilized nations around the globe," he said. "This is the urgent call of Americans who love their country and all that it stands for."

The full text of Edgar’s statement follows:

Abu Ghraib has become a dark icon of history, forever etched in our minds as a place of horror, torture and death. It is good that it is closing and we pray that it will soon be turned to rubble and dust. Unfortunately, the memories will not go away.

In recent years, both Iraqis and Americans abused and tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib, both sides convinced that their heinous acts were necessary to preserve a regime or protect other lives. With the closing of Abu Ghraib, it's time to renew our resolve as a nation that torture and abuse must never be weapons for our defense. To declare that torture may be necessary to protect safety and freedom is illogical, immoral and profane. It's as chilling as an analogy from another era: that in order to save a village, it is necessary to destroy it. Our liberties will be left defenseless if we abandon our commitment to just and humane treatment, in war or in peace.

Recently the National Council of Churches also called for the closing of another dark icon, the Guantanamo Bay retention camp in Cuba. We endorsed a United Nations Report recommending that the U.S. refrain from "any practice amounting to torture" and to bring the detainees to trial or release them without further delay. This is the urgent call of civilized nations around the globe. This is the urgent call of Americans who love their country and all that it stands for.

The National Council of Churches also renews its request -- issued three times since 2003 -- that a small interfaith delegation be allowed to visit Guantanamo to assure the world -- and ourselves -- that our country is committed to the rule of law and humane justice.

The National Council of Churches has proclaimed a forthright policy on human rights since 1963, and as the U.S. government prepares to decide what it will do after the closing of Abu Ghraib, it seems important to quote it again:

"Christians believe that man is made in the image of God, that every person is of intrinsic worth before God, and that every individual has a right to the fullest possible opportunity for the development of life abundant and eternal. Denials of rights and freedoms that inhere in man's worth before God are not simply a crime against humanity; they are a sin against God."

The National Council of Churches USA is composed of 35 Orthodox, Protestant, Episcopalian, historic African American and peace church traditions representing 45 million Christians in 100,000 congregations in the United States.

Contact NCC News: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252, pjenks@ncccusa.org; or Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350, ltune@ncccusa.org.

 


 

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