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Reform Jewish Movement Condemns Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners; Calls for Full and Swift Accountability

Contact:Alexis Rice or Zach Rosenberg
202.387.2800

Saperstein: The U.S., which entered Iraq to remove an inhumane dictator renown for his acts of barbarism, must now ensure that abuse of prisoners is not tolerated by military leaders of any rank, and that those who are found responsible for such acts in the past are held fully accountable.

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2004 - In response to the growing evidence of abuse of Iraqi prisoners being held under U.S. authority in Iraq, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

Over the past several days, increasing photographic and documentary evidence-some stretching back a number of months-has emerged of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners being held by United States forces at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison. The suffering of imprisoned Iraqis is a disgrace to the international rule of law, the ideals for which our country stands, and the values we are trying to inculcate in a new Iraq.

The photos of American soldiers gloating over naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners have appalled and sickened people of decency all over the world. We welcome President Bush's condemnation of these acts and his apology for the humiliation suffered by the prisoners and their families. The U.S., which entered Iraq to remove an inhumane dictator renown for his acts of barbarism, must now ensure that abuse of prisoners is not tolerated by military leaders of any rank, and that those who are found responsible for such acts in the past are held fully accountable.

The consequences of the actions of the soldiers who have dishonored their uniform and country are great. It casts suspicion on the vast array of American and allied soldiers who bravely serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. American, British, and other allied soldiers, already facing hostility from unstable areas of Iraq, are now at even greater risk of harm if captured. And under the glaring spotlight of the world community, respect for the U.S. military and American credibility have been shaken. It is time for the U.S. government to establish firmly and with conviction its commitment to preventing these serious violations in the future.

We urge the Administration and Congress to make public the results of the investigations into these abuses and prosecute fully any soldiers, intelligence personnel or contractors who have engaged in both recent and past abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Jewish law taught 3,000 years ago that -in times of war no less than in times of peace-maintaining that dignity of all people, which flows from being created in God's image, is incumbent upon each of us.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .



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