Archbishops warn PM over abuse of Iraqi prisoners

By Andrew Woodcock

The Independent

30 June 2004

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have combined in a strongly worded protest to Tony Blair over the behaviour of coalition security forces in Iraq.

In a letter sent on behalf of all the bishops of the Church of England, Rowan Williams and David Hope accused the coalition of "double standards" in its treatment of Iraqi detainees.

The credibility of Western governments throughout the Muslim world was undermined by reports of abuse and deaths in custody, putting at risk Britain's ability to act as an "honest broker" in the Middle East, they said.

In the letter, drawn up following a meeting in Liverpool of all 110 archbishops and bishops this month, they wrote: "It is clear that the apparent breach of international law in relation to the treatment of Iraqi detainees has been deeply damaging. The appearance of double standards inevitably diminishes the credibility of Western governments with the people of Iraq and of the Islamic world more generally."

The archbishops also raised concerns about the failure to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.