Jewish groups praise torture ban, Gitmo closing

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Two U.S. Jewish groups and an interfaith coalition hailed President Barack Obama’s executive orders closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center and prohibiting torture.

"The decision to close Guantanamo and end U.S-sponsored torture gives us hope that we are on a path to restoring principles of justice that have been set aside for far too long," said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, in a statement. "These executive orders send a clear statement of a return to the principles that have made the United States of America a beacon of freedom and democracy to the world."

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for public policy groups, also praised the orders, calling it a "welcome move toward restoring the American and Jewish ideals of human dignity and respect.

"By signing these orders during the first days of his presidency, President Obama has indicated that upholding human rights will be a central pillar of his administration’s national security and foreign policies," the group said in a statement.

The National Religious Campaign to End Torture, which includes Jewish groups and which had previously urged faith leaders to press Obama to act early on the torture issue, also praised the new president, saying he has allowed the United States "to again find its moral bearing."

The four executive orders Obama signed on Thursday, the second day of his presidency, begin the process of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison, require the CIA to comply with the Army Field Manual on Interrogations, close the CIA secret prisons known as "black sites" and allow International Committee of the Red Cross access to ensure that all U.S.-held detainees are being held in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

Obama had promised the orders in his presidential campaign.
 

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