NRCAT Coalition Letter: Access to Detainees

September 23, 2008

Members of the U.S. Senate
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives
The Capitol
Washington, D.C.

Dear Members of Congress:

We are writing as people of faith to ask you to support legislation that requires the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to notify the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of all U.S.-held detainees and to allow the ICRC access to them. An independent neutral observer, the ICRC has a mandate to visit detention facilities around the world to ensure that prisoners of war and other detainees are treated humanely as required by international law.

The United States has long opposed holding detainees incommunicado and supported ICRC access, because incommunicado detention is most often used as the means to engage in unlawful and inhumane treatment. Consequently, the U.S. State Department has repeatedly criticized governments for engaging in “disappearances” in its annual human rights reports.

However, over the past seven years, the United States itself has engaged in this practice – a practice that runs counter to international law and to our most fundamental values. By providing the ICRC with access to U.S.-held detainees we can effectively end secret detentions, strengthen America’s ability to advocate for the appropriate treatment of Americans detained overseas, and restore U.S. credibility on the issue of torture.

While we represent a wide diversity of America's faith traditions, we all believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human life. As such, acts of torture and inhumane treatment are unequivocally antithetical to all of our faiths. We believe that it is of the utmost importance that our country immediately implements all measures needed to guarantee the humane treatment of all detainees, and to ensure that torture is never used

again. Providing the ICRC with access to all U.S.-held detainees is one of the important measures we can take to achieve that.


Bishop Thomas G. Wenski
Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, Ph.D.
General Secretary
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA

Rev. Dr. Wes Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago

Nancy Ratzan
National Council of Jewish Women

Sheetal D. Shah
Hindu American Foundation

Rev. Dr. David Gushee
Evangelicals for Human Rights

The Reverend Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rabbi Steve Gutow
Executive Director
Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church, (USA)

Rabbi David Saperstein
Director and Counsel
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Shawn Zevit
Director of Outreach and Tikkun Olam
Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

Jim Winkler
General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church

Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wolhberg
Rabbinical Assembly

Rabbi Brian Walt
Executive Director
Rabbis for Human Rights North America

E. Robert Goodkind
Council Chair
Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights

Rev. William G. Sinkford
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Dr. Ingrid Mattson
Islamic Society of North America

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
National Director, Interfaith and Community Alliance
Islamic Society of North America

Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

Reverend Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rabbi Leonard D. Gordon
Chairperson, Social Action Committee
Rabbinical Assembly

Archbishop Nicolae Condrea
Romanian Orthodox Church

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren