Pelavin: "The information which has been carried in the press raises significant concerns about the apparently degrading and humiliating treatment of Pfc. Manning."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., March 29, 2011 -- In response to reports concerning the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, Mark Pelavin, Associate Director for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:
Dear Mr. Secretary,
I write to you on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, which includes more than 1.5 million members in over 900 congregations, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which represents over 1,800 Reform rabbis, to inquire about troubling recent news reports concerning the conditions and treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Let me begin by saying that we recognize that the reports about the manner in which Pfc. Manning is being held are incomplete. That is why we are writing to you directly. The information which has been carried in the press raises significant concerns about the apparently degrading and humiliating treatment of Pfc. Manning. As people of faith, who believe deeply that every individual is created in the image of God and worthy of dignity, and as Americans who believe deeply in our judicial system's presumption of innocence and due process, treatment that violates these principles must be condemned.
The media has reported that Pfc. Manning is required to sleep naked and stand outside his cell in the morning with no clothes on, because of his status on the "prevention of injury" list, treatment his lawyer characterizes as medically unjustified. If Pfc. Manning, who has not been convicted of any crime, is in need of medical or psychological care, we hope he is receiving such treatment while in prison, thereby alleviating the need for measures, such as those noted above, which can have a degrading and long term psychological effects on a prisoner. If the aforementioned techniques are in fact intended to be a form of "no-touch torture," as some have suggested, we are further troubled.
We in no way condone criminal activity, or the crimes that Pfc. Manning has been accused of, including transferring classified data to his computer and aiding the enemy. At the same time, we condemn torture, which is harmful to the individual being tortured as well as to the person carrying out the torture. As Jews, we believe that everyone, even prisoners, is created b'tzelem elohim - in the image of God - and as such is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. It is in that spirit that we oppose the physical or mental torture of any individual, for to do so defiles God's creation.
I write to ask that the Department of Defense clarify the conditions that Pfc. Manning is being held under. I also urge you to restate your commitment to ensuring that the highest standards of human rights and law are adhered to in this case, as they should be in all cases. I look forward to your reply.