US bishops urge for passage of bill that ensure fair treatment of captured combatants

.- Combating terrorism remains a government priority, but respect for human dignity should not be undermined in the process, says the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee.

Yesterday, Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee urged support for legislative guidelines for interrogations of enemy prisoners as well as a prohibition on inhuman treatment.

“We believe that a respect for the dignity of every human person, ally or enemy, must serve as the foundation of the pursuit of security, justice, and peace,” Bishop Ricard wrote in a letter to U.S. Senators. “There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason.”

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Ricard urged senators to support two amendments to the Defense Authorization Act, proposed by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and John Warner (R-VA).

The first amendment would prohibit cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment of persons under custody or control of the United States government. The second would provide uniform standards for the interrogation of individuals detained by the Defense Department.

“As events unfold in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places, we recognize that combating terrorism remains a top priority for Congress and the Administration. We also recognize, however, that the reported instances of prisoner abuse by members of the U.S. armed services could seriously undermine that effort and compromise human dignity,” the bishop wrote.

Passage of the bill, he said, would be consistent with the United States’ long history of leadership and strong support for human rights around the world. It would also ensure that the serious abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by U.S. military personnel would never recur, he said.

The U.S. cannot adopt an attitude of “desperate times call for desperate measures,” he added.

“The guidelines and mechanisms contained in these amendments reflect a conviction that our nation must treat our prisoners as we would expect our enemies to treat our own military personnel,” he continued. “Congress’ adoption of these amendments would represent a significant step in restoring the moral credibility of the United States at a crucial time.”

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