A Rabbinic Letter Against Torture

Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and more than 800 rabbis issued a public letter calling on the U.S. to abolish torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees held under United States control.

The letter expressed the following:

We are deeply concerned about the erosion of America’s longstanding repudiation of torture. Because:

  • Jewish tradition teaches that human beings are created in God’s image, and obliges us to protect human life and dignity;
  • The humanity and dignity of both perpetrators and victims is inevitably shattered by the use of torture;
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that torture is “shocking,” “revolting” and “alien” to America’s cherished values and constitutional protections;
  • Torture violates U.S. treaty and Convention obligations, and is punishable by criminal statute;
  • The Israeli Supreme Court has categorically banned torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, even for detainees interrogated for suspected involvement in terror;
  • The abolition of torture, like slavery, is the measure of a free and ethical society;

As Jews and Americans, we urge Congress and the President to prohibit:

  • Exemptions for any arm of the U.S. government from the human rights standards of international law.
  • The practice of extraordinary rendition, whereby suspects are apprehended and flown to countries that use torture as a means of interrogation.
  • Any disconnection of “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” treatment from the ban against “torture” so as to permit inhumane interrogation.
  • The existence of secret U.S. prisons around the world.
  • Denial of Red Cross visits to detainees held by our government overseas.

We join with our rabbis to promote a full discussion of these issues in our religious communities, and we join with people of other faiths, and all concerned American citizens, to do all we can to end the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees held by the United States.

Let America abolish torture now—without exceptions.