WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic and evangelical leaders in separate letters have urged U.S. senators to support a measure that would prohibit all U.S. government agencies and their agents from using torture as an interrogation technique.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, have sponsored an anti-torture amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2016.
“In Catholic teaching, torture is an intrinsic evil that cannot be justified under any circumstances as it violates the dignity of the human person, both victim and perpetrator, and degrades any society that tolerates it,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, wrote in a June 10 letter as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
He said the McCain-Feinstein amendment “would help to ensure that laws are enacted so that our government does not engage in torture ever again.”
In a June 8 letter, the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, also backed the McCain-Feinstein amendment.
Writing on behalf of his organization, he said the group “opposes the use of torture as a violation of basic human dignity that is incompatible with our beliefs in the sanctity of human life.”
“The use of torture is also inconsistent with American values, undermines our moral standing in the world and may contribute to an environment in which capture U.S. personnel are subjected to torture,” he said.
Last December, Democrats in the Senate released a 500-page executive summary that outlined acts of torture it said were carried out by the CIA.
The full 6,000-page report remains classified but the summary slammed U.S. tactics used against detainees in the so-called war on terror. It said some of the tactics were more brutal than first described, produced little information that prevented an attack and often resulted in “fabricated” information.
The intelligence committee began investigating the CIA’s treatment of detainees in 2009. Committee members adopted the report in 2012, but it was not released till the end of last year.
At the time, Bishop Cantu called on President Barack Obama to strengthen the legal prohibitions against torture “to ensure that this never happens again.”
In his June 10 letter to U.S. senators, the bishop said the McCain-Feinstein amendment would “prohibit all U.S. government agencies and their agents from using torture as an interrogation technique.”
It would require, he said:
— All U.S. government agencies — including the CIA – “to limit interrogation techniques to those set out in the Army Field Manual.
— The Army Field Manual to be updated regularly and remain available to the public “to reflect best interrogation techniques designed to elicit statements without the use or threat of force.”
— The International Committee of the Red Cross be given access to all detainees.
“These provisions are ones that the (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace has long supported in trying to ban the practice of torture by the U.S. government,” Bishop Cantu said.
He noted that in its uniform standards for interrogating people, the Army Field Manual “echoes the Golden Rule: ‘In attempting to determine if a contemplated approach or technique should be considered prohibited, and therefore should not be included in an interrogation plan, consider … if the proposed approach technique were used by the enemy against one of your fellow soldiers, would you believe the soldier had been abused?'”
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