Faith leaders urge Red Cross access to detainees

WASHINGTON -- Top leaders from a number of faiths have asked Congress to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to all U.S.-held detainees, including those held at secret overseas prisons.

A letter signed by 25 senior faith leaders calls on Congress to support legislation that gives the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the right to use information from the Central Intelligence Agency to access the U.S.-held detainees.

The letter was signed by Bishop Thomas G. Wenski of Orlando, Fla., representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"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," they said.

While the United States has supported ICRC access and opposed holding detainees incommunicado, the letter claims that the U.S. has engaged in the practice of secret detentions over the past seven years.

"It is of the utmost importance that our country immediately implements all measures needed to guarantee the humane treatment of all detainees," they said.

Providing the ICRC with access to the U.S.-held detainees would end secret detentions, giving the United States greater credibility to advocate humane treatment of American detainees, they said. They also believe it will restore U.S. integrity on the issue of torture.

"Torture and inhumane treatment are unequivocally antithetical to all of our faiths," they said. "We all believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human life."

Also signing the letter were the Rev. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches; Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and Ingrid Mattson of the Islamic Society of North America.

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