Friday, March 6, 2009

Call for an impartial, nonpartisan, and independent Commission of Inquiry: Before the Senate Committee

Testimony of Rev. Richard L. Killmer
Executive Director
National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Before the Senate Judiciary Committee
March 4, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement in strong support of legislation to establish a nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry on the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by the United States following the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a coalition of more than 250 religious organizations joined together in the common belief that the torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees violate the basic dignity of human beings that all religions hold sacred. NRCAT member organizations include representatives from the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, evangelical Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Quaker, Unitarian, Baha’i, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities.

NRCAT strongly supports establishing a nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry because we believe such a commission is of the utmost practical and moral importance to our nation. We believe such a commission is the only way we can publicly condemn the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment as a nation and establish the necessary safeguards to make sure such methods are never again used by the United States.

NRCAT believes that torture is immoral, illegal, and counterproductive. We believe it causes profound and lasting harm, both to its victims and to its perpetrators. And we believe it contradicts our nation's deepest values.

In order to gain national public acceptance of its findings and conclusions, we believe the Commission of Inquiry should be composed of individuals who are noted for their lack of partisanship, who are broadly respected for their ethics and intellect, and who are committed to getting to the truth of the use of torture by the United States. We believe the commission must have subpoena authority in order to achieve the objective of getting the complete truth, and we believe it should be adequately funded and staffed. The commission should be charged with the responsibility of investigating and issuing a final report with respect to the extent of the use of torture by the United States, the identification of the "enhanced" interrogation techniques that were used by both the CIA and the military, how such techniques were approved, who approved them, how many people were subject to the techniques, how many people died as a result of the techniques, and how many people were injured. The commission should also be charged with making recommendations as to how to best prevent the use of torture in the future.

On March 3rd, NRCAT released a statement in support of a Commission of Inquiry signed by 23 heads of faith groups. The statement and the names of the signers are attached to this statement.

A nation that hides from the truth of its mistakes is neither strong nor moral. Let us take the strong, morally courageous path and establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate our nation's use of torture. By doing so, we can learn from our past mistakes and begin to atone for them.

Thank you.
U.S.-Sponsored Torture: A Call for a Commission of Inquiry

The United States must never again engage in torture. Torture is immoral, illegal and counterproductive. It causes profound and lasting harm, especially to its victims but also to its perpetrators. It contradicts our nation’s deepest values and corrupts the moral fabric of our society.

We call for an impartial, nonpartisan, and independent Commission of Inquiry. Its purpose should be to gather all the facts and make recommendations. It should ascertain the extent to which our interrogation practices have constituted torture and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". Understanding the causes, nature and scope of U.S.-sponsored torture is essential for preventing it in the future and eliminating it from our system without loopholes. U.S. law will determine the extent of any criminal culpability.

As people of faith, we know that brokenness can be healed – both in individual lives and in the life of the nation. All religions believe that redemption is possible. Learning the truth can set us on a path toward national healing and renewal.

The United States must never again allow itself to be driven by blinding fears and bitter resentments in responding to national tragedy. The use of torture only serves to undermine our security in a dangerous world.

Nothing less than the soul of our nation is at stake in confronting U.S.-sponsored torture and completely renouncing its use. Let the U.S. reaffirm its values by establishing a Commission of Inquiry.


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

Dr. Ingrid Mattson
Islamic Society of North America

Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism

Rev. Dr. David Gushee
Evangelicals for Human Rights

Rabbi Gerry Serotta
Rabbis for Human Rights – North America

Very Rev. Thomas Picton, CSsR
Conference of Major Superiors of Men

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

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

Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos
Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago

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

Rev. Dr. Stan Hastey
Minister for Mission and Ecumenism
Alliance of Baptists

Suhag Shukla
Managing Director
Hindu American Foundation

Rev. William G. Sinkford
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Rabbi Brian Walt
Executive Director
Rabbis for Human Rights – North America

Archbishop Nicolae Condrea
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese in the Americas

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

Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer
President, the Council of Bishops
United Methodist Church

Rabbi Toba Spitzer
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches

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

Charlie Clements
President and CEO
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

Dr. Anahat Kaur Sandhu
Secretary General
World Sikh Council - America Region

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