Richard Toll endorsed 2021-11-23 11:04:27 -0800
A Declaration Regarding Respect for the Bodies of the Deceased
As religious leaders and scholars, please join us in endorsing the declaration below.
Include your title and your religious, denominational, or organizational affiliation. For additional information:
- "Detained Bodies" (FOSNA)
- "Israeli High Court Greenlights Holding Palestinian Bodies as Bargaining Chips" (B'Tselem)
We, the undersigned faith leaders of the three primary monotheistic religions native to the Holy Land, declare in no uncertain terms that the bodies of fallen combatants, including enemies, should be treated with respect and afforded a proper burial. They must not be held as bargaining chips or used to collectively punish and torment their families. This is a moral and ethical requirement of all three religious traditions, applying to all parties involved, and is not simply a position based on political expediency. It is likewise required by secular international law and the provisions of Article 17 of the Geneva Convention. The practice of withholding the bodies of one’s enemies as bargaining chips, by Israel or Hamas, as well as the current Israeli policy of withholding the bodies of Palestinian combatants to punish families—in the name of both deterrence and collective punishment—is particularly abhorrent and unacceptable.
In Judaism, says Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, refusing to return bodies to their families absolutely contradicts the core Jewish value of upholding human dignity in all circumstances. Furthermore, according to Jewish law, the burial of corpses requires same day burial (Deuteronomy 21:23) and was interpreted by sages like Nachmanides to include the bodies of enemy combatants. Ultimately, refusing to return the bodies of the deceased to family members for burial destroys the possibility of peacemaking between combatant societies, because disrespecting the dead is a deeply traumatic event that prevents reconciliation.
In Christianity, says Rev. Naim Ateek, we believe that God, our Creator, has endowed every human being with dignity and self-worth. God breathes life into all humans. We believe that God created us in His image and has given us the breath of life. Therefore, our faith inspires us to respect the dignity which God has given to all humans, whether living or dead. Any act that dehumanizes and degrades any person must be totally rejected and resisted.
Rev. Alex Awad elaborates further that we are taught to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and do to others what we wish others to do to us. This applies not only to the living but also to the captured corpses of our enemies. We need to handle the corpses of enemy fighters with respect because we are taught that each of us is created in the image of God. Even if a human is dead, he or she continues to reflect that image. Finally, a corpse cannot fight back or pose a threat. Hence, why retaliate or show contempt towards a lifeless body that can neither feel your retaliation nor cause you any further harm?
Islam, says Imam Zafer Bangash, accords great value to human dignity. God grants rights to all human beings—referred to in the Qur’ān as “God’s representatives on earth” (Al-Baqarah 30)—from before one is born, throughout their life, and even after death. Dead or alive, the human body—created by God in perfect shape—must be given dignity and respect. The importance of this is illustrated in the Qur’ān (Al-Ma'idah 31). There, it is narrated that when Cain was unsure of how to deal with the body of his brother Abel—whom he had murdered—God sent a message in the form of a raven. God used the raven to dig into the ground to bury another raven, thus indirectly showing Cain how to bury his brother’s body.
Chief Sunni Court Judge, Shiekh Muhammad Abu Zeid, elaborates further: In addition to prohibiting harm done to non-combatants (Al-Baqarah 190), promoting peaceful solutions to conflict (Al-Anfal 61), and demanding the proper treatment of prisoners (Muhammad 4), the Quran specifically prohibits the desecration of the bodies of enemies (Al-Nahal 126) or leaving the bodies of enemies in the open and unburied. This was precisely the example of the Prophet Mohammad himself after the battle of Bader (Bukhari 3976; Muslim 2875). Islamic teachings confirm the necessity of preventing unjustified wars and the necessity of preventing savage acts, which affect the souls of the living and the bodies of the dead alike.
In each religion, therefore, the dignity of the bodies of fallen combatants must be respected for deep ethical, scriptural, and theological reasons. The corpses of our enemies should not be allowed to become pawns in a political struggle, causing anguish to families and festering hatred between peoples.
We therefore call on all parties to respect these principles. And, we particularly call on Israel to discontinue this inhumane practice and return the dead bodies of its enemies to their families to receive a proper, dignified burial.Endorse
Richard Toll donated 2020-05-03 11:27:29 -0700
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Richard Toll signed Faith G4S 2015-09-21 16:22:33 -0700
The UN has an obligation to uphold human rights.
Dear Mr. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
We, the undersigned religious leaders, are deeply troubled that the United Nations has a number of major contracts with the international security company G4S, which provides services to UN facilities and agencies in violation of the UN’s own guidelines. We urge the UN to end its relationship with G4S because of the company’s active role in human rights abuses (continues below)...82 signatures
(continued from above)
...Our diverse faith traditions all proclaim that each human being is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This belief provides a moral imperative to respect the dignity of every person regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. Intrinsic to human dignity are the rights that enable each person not only to survive but to thrive; that is, to fulfill his or her God-given potential. This theological principle is at the heart of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the body of international and human rights law.
Our sacred texts (1) clearly teach us that human societies must restrain any attempts to violate the dignity of individuals or populations through deprivation or torture, that is, through violations of human rights—and in fact must make positive efforts to assist the needy and the oppressed. The specific emphasis on the most vulnerable among us—the poor, hungry, and children—must be granted a high priority of those needing special attention as protected persons.
G4S is complicit in Israel’s human rights violations, and it demonstrates by its actions that it does not support or respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
G4S has an ongoing contract with the Israeli prison service to provide and maintain security systems at Israeli prisons that currently hold almost 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners.(2) Palestinian and international human rights organizations have documented widespread torture and mistreatment of Palestinian political prisoners, including children.
- By maintaining security systems at Israel’s prisons, G4S assists Israel in using mass incarceration to deter Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s violations of international law and is complicit in Israel’s violations of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.
- G4S provides equipment and services to checkpoints that make up the route of Israel’s separation wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004; to private businesses in illegal Israeli settlements; and to Israeli police facilities in other Israeli government(3) buildings in the occupied West Bank.
- G4S has provided equipment to checkpoints that enforce the siege of Gaza.(4)
A 2012 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 criticized G4S for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law.(5)
While G4S has made various commitments to end some aspects of its participation in Israeli human rights violations, it has not yet met any of these commitments, and has instead tried to deflect criticism of its role in Israeli human rights violations. It has hired known pro-Israel advocates to write legal analyses of its activities in Palestine/Israel. These analyses, commissioned by G4S, are neither independent nor credible.(6)
G4S commits grave human rights violations around the world.
- G4S has been implicated in labor rights violations at several of its global sites. Official complaints under OECD guidelines from G4S sites in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and others led to a G4S commitment to workers’ rights in 2008, but despite this, in the following years G4S was implicated in labor rights abuses in Uganda, South Korea, and South Africa, demonstrating that G4S cannot be trusted to maintain the fair conditions to which it formally agrees. (7)
- G4S has a deplorable track record of serious negligence and violent abuse in prisons it runs around the world. In the UK, G4S lost a contract for one of its multiple private prisons after evidence emerged of improper management of health care provision, suicide prevention, and human rights protection. In South Africa, investigations exposed G4S security teams using electric shocks and forcible medical injections of anti-psychotic drugs at the Mangaung prison.(8) In the United States, G4S operates juvenile detention facilities, provides infrastructure to track and confine formerly incarcerated people, and works alongside Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection to detain and deport people across the U.S.-Mexico border and to transfer immigrants to detention facilities across the country.(9)
- G4S has also been criticized for deaths in custody during deportation and immigrant detention. In one well-known case, Angolan national Jimmy Mubenga was suffocated to death by three G4S guards while being deported in 2010. In another case, Kenyan national Eliud Nguli Nyenze died at a removal center run by G4S, after he was refused medicine earlier in the day despite his complaints of severe pain.(10) G4S received 1,497 complaints in three years regarding its human rights record in these deportation institutions.(11)
The UN has an obligation to uphold human rights.
The UN Supplier Code of Conduct states “the UN expects its suppliers to support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights and to ensure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.” The UN Group on the Use of Mercenaries recently reported the risks of hiring companies with tarred human rights records.(12) We urge the UN to apply its own principles and standards and to end its relationship with G4S due to its clear and active role in human rights abuses.
(1) Throughout Hebrew and Christian Scriptures there is a conspicuous mandate to protect the vulnerable, the powerless, and the marginalized. Merely a few examples of these texts, as translated in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, are as follows: In the Hebrew Scriptures: Exodus 22:22 (You shall not abuse any widow or orphan), Exodus 23:9 (You shall not oppress a resident alien), Deuteronomy 24:17 (You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge), Psalm 146:7 ([The LORD] who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free). In the Christian Scriptures: Luke 6:20–21 (Blessed are you who are poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.), Matthew 25:35–36, 40 (. . . for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. . . . Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me).
(2) Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer Monthly Detention Report, 1 April 2015, http://www.addameer.org
(3) Defence for Children International, Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Custody Face Physical Violence, 20 January 2014, http://www.dci-palestine.org/documents/palestinian-children-israeli-military-custody-face-physical-violence
(4) Who Profits from the Occupation, March 2011, The Case of G4S: Private Security Companies and the Israeli Occupation. http://whoprofits.org/g4s_report
(6) United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 25 October 2012, “Boycott businesses that profit from Israeli settlements”—UN Special Rapporteur.
(7) Amena Saleem, 11 June 2014, G4S hires pro-Israel professor to whitewash war crimes, http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/amena-saleem/g4s-hires-pro-israel-professor-whitewash-war-crimes
(8) War on Want, June 2014, G4S: Securing Profits, Globalising Injustice. http://www.waronwant.org/sites/default/files/G4S%20securing%20profits,%20globalising%20injustice%20(corrected%202015).pdf
(10) Global Exchange, G4S Worldwide, http://www.globalexchange.org/economicactivism/g4s/worldwide. 11 Karon Monaghan QC, 31 July 2013, Inquest into the Death of Jimmy Kelenda Mubenga.
(11) War on Want, June 2014, G4S: Securing Profits, Globalising Injustice.
(12) 21 August 2014, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of people to self-determination. http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N14/513/59/PDF/N1451359.pdf?OpenElement
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