WASHINGTON - May 26 - In his first major televised address since U.S. human rights violations at Abu Ghraib were exposed, President Bush remained silent on the issues of humanitarian law and human rights.
Last night, the President let our nation down by failing to adequately respond to the evil done at Abu Ghraib. Tearing down the prison is not enough. The President must take action proportionate to the gravity of what occurred and the damage done to Americas standing in the world, declared Erik Gustafson, Executive Director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC).
Today, EPIC and a national coalition of veterans and human rights organizations launch Honor the Legacy: a campaign to restore Americas reputation as a champion of international law and human rights. It begins today, 1 pm EST, with the release of an online petition that calls on President Bush to rededicate the United States to:
the Geneva Conventions, the Charter of the United Nations, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a framework of law that protects the lives and dignity of civilians, prisoners of war, and wounded combatants including the Iraqi people and our men and women serving today in Iraq.
The petition is open for signatures through July 4th and can we viewed at: www.epic-usa.org
Founded in 1998, EPIC promotes the protection of human rights and a just U.S. foreign policy towards Iraq through education and advocacy in the United States. The Honor the Legacy coalition includes: Amnesty International USA, Oxfam America, National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC), Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and Veterans for Common Sense (VCS).
Following the atrocities of WWII, the world understood the importance of strengthening international law to protect civilians and prisoners of war. The coalition believes the graphic photos from Abu Ghraib and the policies and statements of the Bush administration reveal that our country has moved away from upholding laws once championed by the U.S. At this critical moment in Iraqs future, the U.S. needs to show its unequivocal support for international humanitarian law in both words and deeds, said Oxfam America Deputy Director of Policy Krista Riddley.
The coalition believes that Saturday, May 29th, provides the President with another chance to set things right when he takes part in the dedication of the National World War II Memorial. I hope President Bush will devote part of his speech to rededicating America to the framework of law that came about following World War II. I can think of no better way to honor the noble principles for which Americans fought and died, said Mr. Gustafson, who is also a veteran of the 1991 Gulf War.
The following spokespersons and veterans are available for comment:
- Erik Gustafson, Executive Director, Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)
- Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches and six-term Member of Congress
- Krista Riddley, Deputy Director of Policy, Oxfam America
- Robert K. Musil, Ph.D, M.P.H., Executive Director and CEO, Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Specialist Charles Sheehan-Miles, USA, Veterans for Common Sense
- Vice Admiral Ralph Weymouth, USN, Retired, a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam