Alert is the newsletter of the Justice and Peace office of CMSM.
It is intended to inform and stimulate
discussion and involvement among the members. Its contents do not
necessarily represent official positions of CMSM.
June 26th is the date that the United Nations
has marked as the International Day in Support of Survivors and Victims
of Torture. This year a coalition of human rights, civil liberties
and faith organizations have joined Torture
Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC International), a leading
survivors organization, in declaring June "Torture Awareness
Month." This awareness raising month is an effort to respond
to the growing evidence that the United States government is engaging
systematically in the use of torture and inhuman treatment as part
of the "war on terror."
Information is also available on the website
of the National Religious Campaign
Against Torture, of which CMSM
is an endorsing member.
Update [from Education
for Justice at the Center of Concern]
In 2003, worrisome reports began about U.S. treatment of prisoners
in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Soon after, allegations of
torture of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba arose.
as blindfolding, sleep deprivation, the use of "truth" drugs,
beatings, prolonged uncomfortable positions, and other forms
of psychological and physical stress were said to be used. Starting
in 2004, human rights
groups discovered that other similar detention facilities for
terrorism suspects exist around the world, but the locations
of only some of
these facilities are known. The groups also found that terrorism
suspects are being flown secretly to countries where torture
Current situation with Abu Ghraib
An internal investigation by the U.S. Army of the scandal began
in January 2004, and reports of the abuse and graphic pictures
abuse came to public attention in April 2004. As a result,
17 soldiers and officers were removed from duty, and 7 soldiers
with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault,
battery. However, in April 2006, the Detainee Abuse and Accountability
(a project by NYU's Center for Human Rights and Global
Justice, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First), published
a study which
detailed abuse allegations against more than 600 U.S. military
and civilian personnel involving more than 460 detainees, since
Many human rights and faith groups (such as Pax Christi, the
National Council of Churches, and the National Religious Campaign
are upset that after 2 years, only limited steps have been
taken to investigate widespread abuse.
Current situation with Guantanamo Bay
There are currently almost 500 detainees being held at Guantanamo
Bay, including large numbers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and
of the detainees have been held indefinitely without access
to U.S. courts, only a military review board. Ten detainees
before a military commission, but the impartiality of the
panel judges has been questioned and detainees and their lawyers
are not given
access to the military's evidence against the detainees. Administration
officials have said in the past that they expect up to 70 to 80 detainees
to be charged. Hundreds more detainees are apparently not slated for
prosecution - they are simply being "held" indefinitely.
On May 19, 2006, the United Nations Committee Against Torture ruled
that the U.S., which ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in
1984, is obligated to close its prison in Guantanamo Bay. British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan have also called for Guantanamo's closure.
Current situation with Secret Prisons and Secret
In 2004, Human Rights First published a report called "Ending
Secret Detentions," which listed 17 detention facilities for
holding terrorism suspects, previously kept secret, that were disclosed
by the government. This included two facilities in Afghanistan, 13
in Iraq, one at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and one in Charleston, South
Carolina. The report also identified 13 other detention centers that
were not officially acknowledged, but whose existence was reported
by multiple sources. These suspected detention centers are said to
be in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia,
Jordan, and two aboard US amphibious assault ships. The U.S. has acknowledged
its practice of "extraordinary rendition," or
sending of criminal suspects, generally suspected terrorists
or alleged supporters
of terrorist groups, to countries other than the United
States for imprisonment and interrogation. However, while
human rights groups
allege that suspects have been sent to Egypt, Morocco,
Syria, and Jordan, which have all been cited for human-rights
violations by the U.S. State
Department, the U.S. government denies that any suspects
which it has sent away have been tortured.
[Sources: Human Rights Watch, "U.S.: Bush Should Close Guantanamo
Now," May 6, 2006
Human Rights Watch, "U.S.: More than 600 Implicated in Detainee
Abuse," April 26, 2006]
Prayer to End Torture
God of the world,
We live in a time of fear,
when brothers and sisters
look with suspicion at one another.
Some would tell us,
"For the greater good,
we must compromise the rights of a few."
For the suffering mother whose husband has been seized,
For the child who heard them take his father in the night,
For the son who waits in a dark cell with unknown fate,
Help us to call our country
to respect human dignity in every situation.
Let justice be done,
and let our country remain just and fair,
never abusing the rights of another human being.
Change and Poverty
"The environmental crisis and poverty are connected
by a complex and dramatic set of causes that can be resolved by the principle
of the universal destination of goods, which offers a fundamental moral
and cultural orientation. The present environmental crisis affects those
who are poorest in a particular way, whether they live in those lands
subject to erosion and desertification, are involved in armed conflicts
or subject to forced immigration, or because they do not have the economic
and technological means to protect themselves from other calamities." [Compendium
of the Social Doctrine of the Church, #481]
A staggering 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa
alone could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by
the end of the
century according to a report
by Christian Aid released this week. "The
climate of poverty: facts, fears and hope" concludes that the poorest
people in the world will be the chief victims of the West's failure to
tackle global warning. But the report also offers the vision of a different
future— a revolution in development thinking that could see poor
regions using renewable energy to power a new, and clean, era of prosperity.
The following is excerpted from an
article by Richard Odingo, vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
and works at the University
of Nairobi, Kenya, in The Independent (UK), May 15, 2006:
In autumn 2000, world leaders signed up to achieve
eight millennium development goals (MDGs) - including eradication of
hunger and reduction
of child mortality by 2015. As things stand, these are just pipe
dreams. World leaders and development charities urgently need to realise
talk of poverty eradication in Africa is now meaningless without
addressing climate change. Indeed, despite all the good intentions,
are likely to become poorer, as incidents of drought and flooding
hit harder and more often across the developing world.…
Reducing poverty globally means facing the climate
challenge. It will not be solved by debt relief or token financial
a true shift in policy. It requires a determined effort to empower
rural communities. Put at its most simple, there is no point in giving
a sack of food every time a drought wipes out its crops - that's
just not sustainable. The only way to make sure they can feed themselves,
without continual charity hand-outs, is to reverse the climate change
that is turning their land into desert.…
Continued economic development in Africa is under threat
from climate change. Yet the problem also offers Africa a huge opportunity.
renewable technologies, such as solar and wind, will help tackle climate
change. But at the same time it could energise and empower the economic
development of the continent. It could perhaps even lead the way in renewable
energy development and become a net exporter of clean power. This is
the message of hope in Christian Aid's otherwise alarming report.
The Holy See has expressed its concern as well. The following
is from an
intervention by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio,
Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations at the 14th session of
the Commission on Sustainable Development of the Economic and Social
Council of the UN, May 11, 2006:
Only the integration of environmental and developmental
concerns into policymaking and a committed political follow-through will
lead to the
essential improvement in living standards for all, while assuring our
world's environmental future.
In addition to the irrational destruction of the natural
environment, there has been the more serious destruction of the human
Although people are rightly worried about preserving natural habitats,
too little effort has been made to safeguard the moral conditions
for an authentic human ecology. Such an ecology will place the human
at the centre of environmental concerns, while simultaneously promoting
an urgent sense of human responsibility for the Earth, be it at the
level of states, commerce or individuals. Happily, as the essential
of life on the planet becomes plain, there is already a growing acknowledgement
that good environmental policies are by extension good people policies
From sub-Saharan Africa to the CIS, there has actually
been an increase in numbers of hungry people in the last three years
although, in world
terms, the general picture appears to have improved. There can be little
doubt that changing climactic conditions have had an impact here. We
can no longer pretend that human activity has little or no impact on
Global warming is a moral issue, impacting the survival
prospects of millions of the poorest and most vulnerable in our world.
ethic of life does not allow us as religious to be indifferent to
this increasingly-serious problem.
[A thorough report on this issue is available in pdf
format at www.oecd.org/dataoecd/60/27/2502872.pdf]
SHARE Foundation invites you on a pilgrimage to
Commemorate the 26th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Four U.S.
Churchwomen, November 30 – December 6, 2006, El Salvador. Approximate
Cost: $950 plus airfare; Scholarships available.
Please join us in honoring Sister Dorothy Kazel, O.S.U., Sister Ita
Ford, M.M., Jean Donovan and Sister Maura Clarke, M.M. who dedicated
their lives to the struggle for human dignity, truth, justice and
peace in the world.
Activities will include:
- Attendance at December 2nd commemorative events
to the tombs and sites of martyrdom of Archbishop Romero, the four
U.S. churchwomen and the Romero Center at the Central American
- Travel and accompany communities including groups
supported by SHARE's
Women's Empowerment Program, peasant associations working
to create equitable rural development policies and organizations
community development work in El Salvador.
For further information and application materials, go
SHARE web site or contact Kathleen Bolts, SHARE Foundation, December
2nd Delegation, 598 Bosworth Street, #1, San Francisco, CA 94131.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
can the Justice and Peace Office help you get involved?
T. Michael McNulty, SJ, editor
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