09-20 Commissioners' Resolution. Affirming the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty.
Source: Comissioners Event:218th General Assembly (2008)
Committee:
[09-20] Social Justice Issues
Sponsor:
Karla Norton
Francis Miller
Topic:Unassigned Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
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Assembly Action
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended with Comments
[Insert comment here.]
Voice Vote
Final Text:
That the 218th General Assembly (2008) do the following:

1.   Affirm the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty, as developed by The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Center for Victims of Torture, and Evangelicals for Human Rights, which states:

Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.

In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics which do not work, which endanger US personnel abroad, which discourage political, military, and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security.

Our President must lead our nation back to our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans.

Therefore, we believe the President of the United States should issue an Executive Order that provides as follows:

The “Golden Rule.” Wewill not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.

One national standard. We will have one national standard for all US personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the US Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.

The rule of law. We will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross. We will in no circumstance hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances. In all cases, prisoners will have the opportunity to prove their innocence in ways that fully conform to American principles of fairness.

Duty to protect. We acknowledge our historical commitment to end the use of torture and cruelty in the world.The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Checks and balances. Congress and the courts play an invaluable role in protecting the values and institutions of our nation and must have and will have access to the information they need to be fully informed about our detention and interrogation policies.

Clarity and accountability. All US personnel—whether soldiers or intelligence staff—deserve the certainty that they are implementing policy that complies fully with the law. Henceforth all US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.

 

3.   Encourage individuals, congregations, and middle governing bodies to lift up our commitment to human rights, the elimination of torture, and to ethical standards in interrogation.

4.   Direct the Peacemaking Program to identify or create devotional, study, worship, and homiletic resources, and make them available on the Web so that individuals, congregations, and middle governing bodies can lift up our opposition to torture and our commitment to human rights and ethical standards in interrogation.

2.       Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate [this action and the related positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on issues related to torture] to the president of the United States, the major candidates for the presidency, and to others in the federal government charged with oversight of the policies and practices of interrogations [this action and the related positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on issues related to torture].

Committee Recommendation
On this Item, the Social Justice Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended with Comments
Comment: The 218th General Assembly (2008) commends the 217th General Assembly (2006) for their action in approving “Human Rights in a Time of Terrorism and Torture (Minutes, 2006, Part I, pp. 867ff).”
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:74
Negative:0
Abstaining:0
Final Text:
Amendment: Amend Recommendation 2. as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and an underline.]
 
“2.       Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action and the related positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on issues related to torture to the president of the United States, the major candidates for the presidency, and to others in the federal government charged with oversight of the policies and practices of interrogations this action and the related positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on issues related to torture.”
 
Recommendation
That the 218th General Assembly (2008) do the following:

1.   Affirm the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty, as developed by The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Center for Victims of Torture, and Evangelicals for Human Rights, which states:

Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.

In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics which do not work, which endanger US personnel abroad, which discourage political, military, and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security.

Our President must lead our nation back to our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans.

Therefore, we believe the President of the United States should issue an Executive Order that provides as follows:

The “Golden Rule.” Wewill not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.

One national standard. We will have one national standard for all US personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the US Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.

The rule of law. We will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross. We will in no circumstance hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances. In all cases, prisoners will have the opportunity to prove their innocence in ways that fully conform to American principles of fairness.

Duty to protect. We acknowledge our historical commitment to end the use of torture and cruelty in the world.The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Checks and balances. Congress and the courts play an invaluable role in protecting the values and institutions of our nation and must have and will have access to the information they need to be fully informed about our detention and interrogation policies.

Clarity and accountability. All US personnel—whether soldiers or intelligence staff—deserve the certainty that they are implementing policy that complies fully with the law. Henceforth all US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.

2.   Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action and the related positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on issues related to torture to the president of the United States, the major candidates for the presidency, and to others in the federal government charged with oversight of the policies and practices of interrogations.

3.   Encourage individuals, congregations, and middle governing bodies to lift up our commitment to human rights, the elimination of torture, and to ethical standards in interrogation.

4.   Direct the Peacemaking Program to identify or create devotional, study, worship, and homiletic resources, and make them available on the Web so that individuals, congregations, and middle governing bodies can lift up our opposition to torture and our commitment to human rights and ethical standards in interrogation.

Rationale
This resolution builds on the PC(USA)’s long history of opposition to inhumane interrogation and torture and support for the rule of law and justice, most recently expressed in the approval of the 217th General Assembly (2006) of the resolution, “Human Rights in a Time of Terrorism and Torture” (Minutes, 2006, Part I, pp. 867ff), and the overture, “A Call for a Commission of Inquiry” (Ibid, p. 783). This resolution reaffirms and builds on these actions by setting forth basic moral guidelines on these matters for current and future government officials.

This action is timely because of the juncture we are at in the history of our nation and because we have an opportunity to join with a multitude of faithful people from many traditions who have joined together in outrage at abuse and in hope for a return to what is best in our nation.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is a growing interfaith coalition of 210 denominations and faith groups including the PC(USA). The Center for Victims of Torture isa nonprofit organization working to end torture and heal the victims. Evangelicals for Human Rights is a nondenominational group that works with the National Association of Evangelicals and was specifically founded to end torture. These groups represent the wide consensus throughout the diversity of the faith community that torture is always wrong.

The Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty was written to express this to those at the highest levels of government who are responsible for creating and implementing policies and practices regarding interrogation. This statement recognizes the need for moral clarity by government leaders, if we are to prevent abuse and promote accountability. Therefore, the religious community, through these organizations, has worked for more than two years to articulate the basic principles that we want to see adopted and articulated by the next president as the understanding of how the United States conducts interrogations.

The Reverend Karla Norton, Presbytery of San Jose
The Reverend Francis P. Miller, Presbytery of Western Reserve

Comment
Advice and Counsel on Item 09-20. From the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP).

The ACSWP supports Item 09-20 and notes that it is in harmony with the policy statement, “Human Rights in a Time of Terrorism and Torture,” approved by the 217th General Assembly (2006) (Minutes, 2006, Part I, pp. 867ff). Therefore, ACSWP advises that this item include a statement commending the action of the 217th General Assembly (2006).

The PC(USA) is a participating member of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an interfaith initiative, and the Stated Clerk is a signatory to the declaration of principles.