Both houses of Congress are expected to vote this week on legislation proposed by the White House concerning treatment of detainees. In a statement sent to Congress on Friday, the Rt. Rev. George E. Packard, Suffragan Bishop for Chaplaincies, wrote:
I want to be clear that we believe that those responsible for the violence and terrorism in our world must be punished for their acts and their disregard for human life. I also recognize how difficult it is to ask that the United States deal justly with those who attack us. Yet that is exactly what we are called to do if we are to uphold the cherished values of our nation and to regain our credibility as a nation that recognizes and upholds human rights.
The White House proposal would:
- Redefine our obligations regarding the treatment of prisoners as presently defined by the Geneva Conventions, and in particular Common Article 3 which prohibits cruel and degrading treatment of detainees,. To do so would invite other nations to do so as well and undermine protection of our own personnel when taken prisoner in other countries.
- Allow trials where defendants would not know the evidence used against them, thus setting up a process that defies an essential human right.
- Remove federal jurisdiction over detainee lawsuits (including those pending), thus eliminating needed oversight and judicial review of detentions and trials.