REASON FOR THIS ALERT: The Senate has proposed language for the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R.2863) regarding “landmine alternatives” and the “prohibition of torture and cruel treatment of prisoners” in U.S. custody. This language is not in the House version. The bill now goes to a House/Senate Conference Committee to iron out differences.
TAKE ACTION NOW! If your Representative is a member of the Conference Committee (see list below), please contact him/her to urge adoption, , of the Senate language in the FY 2006 Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2863) for:
- “landmine alternatives” that requires “a review of the potential indiscriminate effects” of such weapons “prior to any full rate productions decision for these systems” in Senate Report 109-141; and
- prohibition of torture and cruel treatment of detainees and establishment of a clear standard of treatment of prisoners and enemy combatants in sections 8154 and 8155 of the Senate Report.
USCCB POSITION ON LANDMINES: For many years the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Holy See and Catholic bishops from around the world have called for a ban on landmines as indiscriminate and deadly weapons. Catholic moral teaching on just war requires that noncombatant immunity be respected and that the use of force be discriminate. USCCB strongly supports efforts to secure a U. S. commitment to sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which would eliminate the scourge of these morally unacceptable weapons that do not distinguish between soldiers and civilians or between times of war and times of peace. The Senate language in the Defense Appropriations bill moves in this direction.
For more information: Dr. Stephen Colecchi, Director, Office of International Justice and Peace, (202) 541-3196; email@example.com
BACKGROUND ON TORTURE: Media and government agencies have now documented that there have been abuses, including torture and degrading treatment, of prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq, Guantanomo and Afghanistan. While combating terrorism remains a top priority for Congress and the Administration, these reported instances of abuse and torture undermine that effort and are an affront to human dignity.
The mistreatment of prisoners in U.S. custody may now occur more frequently because U.S. armed services members and U.S. interrogators have ambiguous instructions on interrogation methods. In addition, the Administration has declared that U.S. personnel are not bound by prohibitions of cruel treatment when interrogating non-U.S. citizens on foreign soil, even though the United States has ratified the Convention Against Torture.
The U.S. Senate version of the FY 2006 Defense Appropriations Act included two amendments sponsored by Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Warner (R-VA) that would prohibit torture and cruel treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody and set one standard for treatment and interrogation that both respects human dignity and is lawful. The House version does not have a similar section. The White House has threatened to veto any final bill containing such language, saying it would unduly limit the ability of the President to conduct the war effectively.
USCCB POSITION ON TORTURE: The Church respects the dignity of every person. This respect must serve as the foundation of the pursuit of security, justice and peace. There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any incarcerated person even in time of war. While the Conference shares the concern of lawmakers and the Administration for the safety of U.S. soldiers and civilians abroad, it rejects a morality based on attitude that “desperate times calls for desperate measures” or the “end justifies the means.” The reported abuses and practices undermine the effort to combat terrorism. The guidelines contained in the Senate version reflect a conviction that our nation must treat our prisoners as we would expect our enemies to treat our own military personnel.
For more information: Walt Grazer, Policy Advisor for Religious Liberty and Human Rights, at 202-541-3182 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate and House Defense Appropriations Conferees:
|Senator||Christopher S. "Kit"||Bond||202-224-8149||202-224-5721|