[May 7, 2004] The Leadership Conference of Women Religious joins its voice with other faith-based organizations and human rights groups in expressing our abhorrence and shame at the abuse perpetrated on Iraqi prisoners by some members of the US military.  These inexcusable atrocities violate our common humanity.

We do not accept the explanation of our government leaders that these acts were the behavior of a few individuals.  Rather, we see these abusive actions as symptomatic of a deeper, pervasive sickness.  All of us share the responsibility and the blame - the soldiers who performed these heinous acts, military officials who had oversight for the treatment of prisoners, US government officials who ignored reports of these abuses, and all of us who have contributed in some way to our culture of violence.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization representing 73,000 Catholic women religious in the United States, urges that the following actions be taken to begin to address these serious violations of human dignity and human rights:

  • Now that President Bush has issued a late and limited apology for the abusive treatment of Iraqi prisoners, that there be a thorough investigation, and that the results be made public
  • That this investigation include any personnel regardless of rank or office who had knowledge of these atrocities and allowed them to continue with impunity
  • That any military, intelligence, or privately contracted personnel found to have engaged in or encouraged acts of torture or inhumane treatment be prosecuted
  • That there be a complete and public Congressional oversight hearing and investigation into the treatment of all detainees held by the U.S. military anywhere in the world, an investigation which will allow Members of Congress to exercise their powers and rights to enable the balance of power to be restored
  • That all prisoners held by the United States be granted access to international monitoring groups such as the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, Amnesty International, and the United Nations
  • That U.S. government and military officials make a commitment to protect the human dignity and rights of the Iraqi people

As leaders of religious congregations we reach out to our Muslim sisters and brothers.  We grieve with you. We share your outrage.  We will continue to pray and work for social justice, peace, and respect for human dignity and human rights of all people.

As a nation we share in the shame.  Together we must work to assure that these abuses never happen again.