Free the Captives: Witness Against Illegal Detention and Torture

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08 November 2006

CPT Kidnappers in Iraqi Custody

Christian Peacemaker Norman Kember says he has received information that Iraqi police have arrested his kidnappers, according to reports that emerged seven hours ago.

from Reuters
"(The police) told me that the people who kidnapped us were in custody in Iraq, and that a due process of law was going on. And they hoped that there would be a trial in early 2007," Kember said, according to a transcript of the interview.

The Foreign Office was unable to confirm the arrests, while London's Metropolitan Police declined to comment.

The retired professor of medical ethics indicated he might be called on to testify against his captors, but said he would be reluctant to do so and would prefer to see them released.

"I feel that forgiveness is the most positive thing that we can do in this situation," he said.

"I don't wish them any ill. I think that some of them had reasons for regarding us as their enemies," he said.

At the same time, the peace campaigner said he would testify if it would help his kidnappers receive clemency.
My perspective of this is inflamed by my friendship with Tom Fox, Kember's companion in captivity who was murdered two weeks before Kember, Loney, and Sooden were rescued by Coalition forces. I find myself looking back to the CPT in Iraq Statement of Conviction signed by Tom in March of 2005:
We ask for equal justice in the arrest and trial of anyone, soldier or civilian, who commits an act of violence, and we ask that there be no retaliation on their relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. Therefore, any penalty should be in the spirit of restorative justice, rather than in the form of violent retribution.
When news of Tom's death reached us in the United States, members of his Quaker meeting read the full text of this statement to CNN's cameras. What does it mean? How can we faithfully pursue not forgiveness only, but justice that is truely restorative?

The language of the Statement of Conviction suggests that Tom was alluding to his experience at the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP), where he studied before joining CPT. The basis of restorative justice, according to CJP co-director Howard Zehr, is seeking to heal and right wrongs: crime is a violation of human relationships, and violations create obligations; restorative justice seeks to meet the real needs that arise when people have been harmed.

This horrifying ordeal of kidnapping and murder has created such significant trauma. I don't claim to speak for the former hostages, but I experience that grief ramified in my own life and community. Clearly there is much need for recognition and healing. Applying "the spirit of restorative justice" to this painful reality is rife with difficult questions. As Quakers, we don't have a catechism with all the answers; instead we rely on an inner guidance called leadings. We ponder considerations and wrestle with quandaries.

While these are meaningful questions to consider, I also wonder what choices lie before us. If this trial is held over 6,000 miles away in Iraq, again we are faced with circumstances that are well beyond our influence. Under these circumstances what chance is there that any justice might help to heal our grief and trauma?

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