PUBLIC STATEMENT:

Six Religious and Human Rights Groups Call for Rumsfeld's Resignation

"We are outraged at the larger culture of illegal behavior that is manifested by torture, indefinite detentions, collective punishment, the indiscriminate use of force, and the premise of guilty until proven innocent."
MAY 12, 2004--At a press conference on Wed., May 12 at Masjid Dar El-Salam Mosque in Sanf Francisco, six leaders of Bay Area religious and human rights groups gathered to make a public statement. These individuals were: Rayan El-Amine, Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee; Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange; Samina Faheem Sundas, American Muslim Voice; Souleiman Ghali, Islamic Society of San Francisco; Rabbi Michael Lerner, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue; and Van Jones, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

Their joint public statement of the participants reads as follows:

We are outraged at the torture and extreme humiliation of Iraqi prisoners. We are outraged at the egregious violations of due process in US-run prisons from Guantanamo to Afghanistan to Iraq, where the Geneva conventions that have governed the treatment of prisoners of war for decades have been cast aside. We are outraged at the larger culture of illegal behavior that is manifested by torture, indefinite detentions, collective punishment, the indiscriminate use of force, and the premise of guilty until proven innocent.

This culture of illegal behavior has been set at the highest level, and responsibility needs to be taken at the highest level. That is why we are coming together to call for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Personal statements of participants in the press conference included:
"The soldiers who abused the Iraqi prisoners must be punished. But it is not enough to only castigate those low level soldiers, many of them reservists, who physically committed the abuses," said Samina Faheem Sundas of American Muslim Voice. "In order to demonstrate to the world that the American people will not tolerate torture, accountability must reach all the way up the chain of command."

"The fundamental Biblical injunction to treat every human being as though s/he was an embodiment of the Image of God is being systematically violated in our military prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo," said Rabbi Lerner. "Jews, who have too often been the victims of torture throughout our history, are particularly outraged that these practices continue in Iraq and are funded by our tax dollars."

"It is Donald Rumsfeld's responsibility to guarantee that the US is abiding by the Geneva Conventions, and he has utterly failed to do so," says Medea Benjamin of the human rights group Global Exchange. "Apologies, although necessary, will fall flat if the international community does not see that those at the highest rank are held responsible."

"With responsibility comes accountability," says Souleiman Ghali, president of the Islamic Society of San Francisco. "It is time for Mr. Rumsfeld to put the interests of America before his personal interests, and resign."

The participating groups are calling on members of the religious and human rights community around the US to join them in their call for Rumsfeld's resignation.

For more information, visit FireRumsfeld.org.


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This story was published on May 12, 2004.