October 5, 2005

TO:
  Members of the U.S. Senate
FROM:
  Kay J. Maxwell, President
RE:
  McCain Amendment to the DOD Appropriations Bill

The League of Women Voters urges your strong support for an amendment to H.R. 2863, the Department of Defense appropriations bill, proposed by Senator John McCain concerning interrogation of military prisoners. The amendment would bar “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment” against anyone in U.S. custody and require all Department of Defense personnel to follow procedures in the Army Field Manual when detaining and interrogating suspects.

Founded in 1920, the League of Women Voters has long supported civil liberties and human rights in the United States and around the world. Like most Americans, we are deeply concerned about the alleged abuses of military prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, the well documented mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, and the interrogation methods reportedly used on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

It is our understanding that the McCain Amendment would prohibit all forms of detainee treatment and interrogation not specifically authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence. This amendment would ban practices that constitute torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment. It would bar treatment prohibited by the U.S. Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

The League of Women Voters believes that the McCain Amendment reinforces existing law. It will ensure that American forces act in accordance with U.S. law and international norms. The United States must recommit itself to following human rights standards in order to regain standing in international relations and to ensure that our nation remains true to the underlying values of our democratic system. In doing so, we will make it clear that the United States does not condone torture.

In these difficult times, it is important that we remember that in fighting to protect America, we must not sacrifice the very safeguards that are the foundation of our liberties.